Friday, March 16, 2018

All Stressed Up And Nowhere To Go

By John Stallings

Did you know that pilots who fly off aircraft carriers have a higher cholesterol level than their pals who stay on deck though they eat at the same table? It’s true.

 The extra stress they’re under causes their cholesterol to be higher.

Here’s a conundrum; though cholesterol is tagged by experts as the major cause of strokes & heart attacks, a large percentage of people who die suddenly from heart attacks have a surprisingly low cholesterol level? You can check that out on Google.

So what am I saying? I’m saying, though it wouldn’t be wise to eat unhealthy foods, overdo it on the beef, & never exercise, the big killer is stress. Here are a few Biblical answers I offer to us all to stave off the terrible effects of stress, taken from Proverbs 15:13-22;

1. Learn to laugh.—

Never be ashamed of your sense of humor. Studies have shown that people with a well developed sense of humor are almost always highly intelligent. Sounds good huh?

 I came by my zaniness honestly. As my grandmother on my dad’s side lay on her death bed, fading in & out of consciousness, she said (my parents tell me she had a little grin on her face as she spoke) “I see an elevator that has parked at the foot of my bed. The doors have opened & two angels are coming, one on each side of my bed. In a moment they’re going to lift me up & take me to the elevator & push the button & we’re going up.” She paused a few seconds & with the little grin still very evident she said her very last words; “I sure do hope they don’t push the wrong button.”

 The Bible says “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” For those who have a tragic view of life, God bless you, but know that God will forgive you if you forget & laugh once in a while.

By the way, only man can laugh, blush & cry. Animals can have highs & lows but they never do the aforementioned things, that’s reserved for the highest of God’s creatures. You never had to teach a child to laugh, did you?

2. Cultivate contentment.

In Proverbs 15:17 we see two homes depicted. One is eating a veggie meal with smiles & contentment while the other is eating a smoking roast but they’re all mad at each other. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be in Alabama with a banjo on my knee than live in a home where everyone is unhappy. There’s a table filled with nervous people with a lady at the end of the table with a face like a hatchet making cutting remarks to everyone. I don’t think the Bible means to imply that rich people are always miserable but I will say...

I’d rather be with a person worth a million who doesn’t have a cent than to be an individual who has a million dollars & isn’t worth a cent. Read 2 Timothy to find out what God thinks of those who put money above everything else. The next way to eliminate stress is;

3. Eliminate anger. ---V. 18

To be stress free we must have anger under control. Proverbs 15:1 says—

A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.

You may say; “I can’t control my anger.” But if you’re in the midst of a tirade, screaming to the top of your voice & the phone rings, what do you do? You answer the phone in the sweetest voice you have, like you’re talking to a furry little kitten. Am I right? O yes, we’ll present ourselves on the phone as harmless little fuzz-balls. So you see, we can control our anger when we want to.

A few years ago I lost perhaps my favorite first cousin. He was only fifty years of age but he had an awful temper. His business was exploding in Atlanta Georgia & the day he died he’d just ordered his wife a Cadillac to match his.

He sat at his swanky desk in his plush new office & conversed with a man who was installing a new sprinkler system in the lawn of his lovely new home. The man told him that his tractor had just run over one of the pipes he had installed so the job would take a little longer. My cousin became so angry that he dropped his head on his desk & died with a massive heart attack. Today his widow has taken that business & made herself a wealthy woman & has since remarried but my cousin is in the graveyard because he couldn’t eliminate his anger. The next way to beat stress is to;

4. Walk in wisdom. V. 21-22

To be deeply stressed is to admit you’ve forsaken God’s wisdom. Why attack people when you can attack problems instead?

A lady told me the other day that she had told her son what she really felt & about some things in his family & she wondered why things weren’t the same with him. As she talked with me, I learned that she had told him in one conversation that he talked too much & that his kids weren’t as respectful to elders as they should be. On & on she went telling her grown son what she thought. I had to be honest so I suggested to her that she’d gone into the conversation right but wrongly broadened it to include too many issues & too much material. She looked at me extremely puzzled & simply couldn’t understand what I meant. I asked her if she’d ever ridden on an elevator & she of course said she had. I asked if she’d read the printed materials that told how much of a load the elevator could safely hold. Of course she had but it still didn’t dawn on her what I was trying to say.

Here is was in a nutshell; didn’t she ever stop to think that in one conversation she was overloading her son? As soon as I used the word “overload” she gasped-“Oh God!!” Why did it take a country preached like me to say something so simple & turn on the lights in this good, highly educated woman’s mind? She hadn’t stopped to think that since she had gotten by O.K with telling her son he talked too much, she shouldn’t push her luck & try to “throw the book at him.” Her pride got all pumped-up with her first success but she didn’t stop to think that human beings have a low tolerance for being criticized. When somebody opens the floodgates on us we get the feeling that nothing is right with us-- so what’s the use? She simply wasn’t walking in wisdom. As she left she retorted, “I’m so glad I spoke to you.” I thought as she left, “lady so am I. Now with a simple little key of wisdom maybe you can go make things better & less stressful for you & your family.”

A guitar string or any stringed instrument needs its strings tuned by putting just the right amount of pressure on them. Without some pressure they can’t bring forth the beautiful music they were designed to produce. But if too much stress is put on the delicate strings, they’ll break. Then there’s no music at all.

 One thing we should all keep in mind about stress where our lives are concerned;-THERE IS A BREAKING POINT!!!



Sunday, March 11, 2018

"Spots In Your Love Feast..."

By John Stallings


Jude, a brother of Jesus, was a magnificent writer. He had a way with words, & was especially the master of metaphor. He doesn’t just tell you something, he paints a word picture. I wish I could have heard him preach.Jude must have looked a lot like Jesus because Mary & Joseph were also his parents. Maybe he even sounded something like Jesus when he spoke. The same Galilean accent; the same mannerisms. Jesus drew word pictures with parables.

Jude did it with short phrases that were rich in texture & in meaning.In verses 12-13, Jude says some very interesting things.


If you were to ask the average Christian today what a church meeting was like in the days of the apostles, you’d probably get difference answers. A Charismatic person would feel that the early church service consisted of singing & preaching & the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, & they’d be partially correct.Many other people would no doubt believe the early church services were mostly a celebration, featuring the Lord’s Supper & the symbolic elements of bread & wine. They also would be partially right.

This may shock you but a dominate part of the worship of those early Christians was centered around a meal! That’s right—a meal! The early Christians referred to this meal as the “agape meal” or love feast. What happened to this meal? Well; it fell through the cracks over time for various & sundry reasons.Jude explains that counterfeit Christians had infiltrated his church.

First he says; These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.What is Jude talking about here? What does…spots in your love feast… mean?The love feast would be equivalent to our covered dish suppers. They would combine these meals with The Lord’s Supper. The early church didn’t just meet for an hour or so, they got together & worshipped & ate together. They called these “Love feasts” because they were characterized by Christian fellowship & love.

The problem with these love feasts was that some who came didn’t exhibit love. Sound familiar? These people came in their sin, with raunchy attitudes, with no intention of repenting thereby spurning the gracious love of God.Paul was dealing with these types when he talked to the Corinthians. He talks to them about the divisions & factions that were destroying the unity of the church. With Paul & with Jude, people were actually coming to the love feast early & eating all the food.

So when the late folk came after long days of work there was no food left. The early-birds had stuffed themselves with food & wine & some were lying around “three sheets in the wind.”In Jude’s church there were “spots in your love feast…serving only themselves.Christianity has two distinct groups; those who are authentic & serve God, & those who are synthetic & serve only themselves.


Certainly a church should be a feeding station where we can get our souls fed. But there’s a fine line between- “I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” & “I go where I can get the most for my money.” Or “I’m looking for the best show in town.” The bottom line is; True Christianity is about true love. Everything else is just the surface appearance of Christianity.

Listen to Pastor James;Pure religion & undefiled before God & the Father is this, to visit the fatherless & widows in their affliction & to keep himself UNSPOTTED from the world.—James 1:27.

Have you ever considered that a church service is a lot like the old schools sixty or seventy years ago, when one classroom had grades one through twelve? I don’t know how those teachers did it because they had to see to it that each of those grade-levels were challenged & taught helpful lessons.When a church meets, the same thing is happening on a spiritual level. The pastors & teachers have to literally have something for everybody. One of the old time preachers put it this way; “There are spiritual Giraffes & spiritual Chihuahuas in every service.” This makes it a little difficult for ministry & without the Holy Spirit taking the things of God & revealing them to the people, nothing much would happen.

The next time you go to church, & you aren’t getting what you feel you need, & you feel the message is above your head, think about this; maybe God is looking out for the spiritual Giraffes that day. Or if you feel the Word is too elementary, maybe God is feeding the spiritual Chihuahuas that service.Jude uses other metaphors to describe these folk who are serving self only but I want to stick with the love metaphor here.There are several different kinds of love. There’s romantic love, family love, brotherly love & Agape love.AGAPE LOVE. John uses agape love in 1 John 4:7-11;

Beloved let us love one another; for love is of God and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love. In this was manifest the love of God toward us because that God sent His only begotten son into the world that we might live through Him……beloved if God so loved us we ought also to love one another.

John does a great job here of teaching us about agape love. He tells us that as Christians we should be exhibiting agape love. He tells us where Agape love comes from; he tells us what it looks like & shows us if we have this kind of love we’ll be a blessing to others.But here’s the kicker; you & I aren’t actually capable of this kind of love. It isn’t going to happen. That is- in our own strength. We can’t love like that. As humans we’re just incapable. So in short John is asking us to do something we can’t do. You don’t have agape love & I don’t have agape love. We can produce family love & brotherly love & romantic love but we can’t produce agape love. It’s beyond humans to have sacrificial, God-like agape love.

The Beatles sang—All you need is love& then they broke up. So how are we to fulfill this mandate to love—agape—others? John tells us that if we are born of God we know Him. That means to intimately know Him. If you & I are true believers who’ve committed our lives to Christ, then we know God.


Do you remember the “pot-bellied” craze a few years ago when people were spending hundreds of dollars to own one of those exotic house pets imported from Vietnam? Well, this craze started when breeders of these particular animals claimed that these mini-pigs were very smart & that they would only grow to a weight of 40 lbs. For some reason people loved the idea of a smart mini-pig running around the house because thousands of these pigs were sold.Well it turned out the breeders were only half-right. The pigs were smart. Some could even be trained to walk on leashes & use litter boxes.

But they often grew to be as much as 150 lbs or more! I heard of one that grew to weigh 250 lbs & when the truth came out, as the pigs grew older they could become openly aggressive-not at all pet-like.So what did the people do with their unwanted pot-bellied pigs? Fortunately, according to U.S News & World Report, a man named Dale Riffle came to the rescue. Dale was given a pig as a gift & he fell in love with it—even though it never learned to use its litter-box & developed a tendency to eat carpet, wall paper, & dry wall.

Dale loved his pig so much that he sold his suburban home & moved with his pig to a 5-acre farm in West Virginia…& then he started taking in unwanted pigs. Before long the guy was living in “Hog heaven.”

When the article was written Dale had 180 pig residents on his farm enjoying a luxurious lifestyle! The little porkers snooze on a bed of pine shavings & wallow in mud puddles. They wait in line for one of Dale’s belly-rubs. These little rascals never fear that they’ll someday become bacon or pork chops. Not surprising, there’s a waiting list for unwanted pigs to get a hoof in the door at Dale’s ranch. At last report none of the pigs had ever had lipstick put on them which is comforting to know. In Dales’ own words; “We’re all put on earth for some reason & I guess pigs are my lot in life.”

It seems strange to me that anyone would fall so in love with pigs, especially if they were in their right mind.But let’s be frank; isn’t it even more amazing that a perfectly holy God is passionately in love with we who are so imperfect, so openly rebellious & frequently indifferent?Listen to the way God describes & paints the human race in...

 Romans 3:10-17;

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing & bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin & misery mark their ways & the way of peace they do not know.

All of us are flawed because of sin but God loves us anyway. Isaiah says our goodness is like filthy rages compared to a holy God.1 John 3:1 says;-

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

Friend, you & I are utterly unable to generate agape in ourselves. The only way that happens is to be regenerated & born again. When we’re born again, then we have the ability to have this agape love because then we know Christ in an intimate way. Turn it around & it sounds like this; if we don’t have agape love it’s because we don’t know God. John tells us- if we don’t have this agape, sacrificial love, then we don’t know God.

Let me put it in question form; how can we have “the God kind of love, & love others in the way God loves us, if we don’t know God?

How can I do calculus if I don’t know calculus?

How can I speak Portuguese if I don’t know Portuguese?

How can I fly a plane if I don’t know how to fly?

How can I have agape love if I don’t know God who is the essence of that love?God then agape love isn’t within my personal universe.An individual can’t be an agape-loving -person unless they’ve been taken hold of by God & transformed into a loving person. That clears up a lot of things doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why someone had no love? There’s’ your answer. They don’t know God, thus they can’t have agape love. John doesn’t go into detail about how this happens he just let’s us Know it’s a “God thing” & when we get straightened out with God this loves just comes. John can’t explain it & I certainly can’t because it boggles the human mind. All we know is when we know God He works in us in such a way that we can agape like He agapes. And when this love comes to us, it won’t come as a philosophy, it will come as a force, a living, practical force that we are to live out day by day.

If Jesus said “I feel for you” that would be Sensitivity.

If Jesus said “your sin is illogical” that would be Rational.

If Jesus said “Only bad people sin,” that would be Judgmental.

If Jesus said “Tell me about your problems” that would be Therapy.

If Jesus said “You should have seen it coming” that would be Pity.

If Jesus said, “Relax & try not to think about your failures” that would be Meditative.

If Jesus said “Don’t worry about your sins, things will get better” that would have been blind Optimism.

But Jesus said, “Take my hand & let me pull you out of your sin & forgive you. That’s Agape Love!


If you looked at John’s language structure in this passage, it would be logical for him to say this; - “since God has loved us with this agape love, then we ought to love Him.” But John doesn’t say that. He says,--Since God loves us with agape love, then we should love one another with agape love. God’s agape is what enables us to agape.The more you & I experience God & walk with him in intimate fellowship, the greater our ability to agape others. The more of God I have the more agape I will have with which to love others.

So what I want to do is experience God as much & as closely as possible, because that’s where I get my power to agape love people. How do I build up my agape love level? I experience God. How do I experience God? By spending more time in His presence. What kinds of things bring me into this intimate fellowship with God? Worship, prayer, Bible study & quite time so that I can take on more of the reflection of God.

Friend, I want to encourage you, if you’re not already doing it, to add a time of quiet each day with God. Over the years I’ve found that this time of closeness where I can press into God & listen to Him as He speaks, has been perhaps the most healing thing in my life. I have found that this & only this gives me a growing ability to love that I just don’t naturally possess.

In verse 12, John says God’s love is perfected or completed in us.Do you have a sense of emptiness in any area of your life? Is there something that eats at you or something that’s missing & you just cant put your finger on it?

In time, as you draw nearer & nearer to God, He’ll make those things that are stressing you now irrelevant. He’ll take the things that seem to be missing & make them inapplicable. How? In the ever increasing experience of the agape love of God, all things pale in comparison.Here is what God envisions for you & me;

….That He might present to Himself a glorious church, without SPOT or wrinkle or any such things; but that it should be holy & without blemish.



Monday, March 5, 2018

Attitude Is Everything

By John Stallings

In the spiritual life, attitude is everything.
We need to learn to be rigorously honest in discerning our heart attitudes. Certainly we know a critical, fault- finding heart is not healthy for us, spiritually or physically.

Attitudes are -inner feelings that wiggle to the surface and express themselves in actions.

Attitude will ultimately manifest outwardly in words, body language, and a myriad of other ways.

Arms crossed tightly across chest, facial expressions, eye rolls, throat clearing, patting the foot impatiently are just a few subtle indicators of attitude. Oh, and the eyes. Let’s not forget the eyes. Breathes there a person who can’t remember “the look” their mother used to give them when they were children when she was displeased? When we men get married we find that our spouses can give us that same look. I’ve often suspected that somewhere they’re holding classes for women called “The Look 101.” Every married man has seen that look and it sends cold chills down the spine, though to be frank, we men know in our hearts when we get that look we probably richly deserve it.

Speaking of body language, many times I’ve sat on church platforms and seen couples sitting in the congregation with their legs crossed, -their body pointed away from their spouse. Often this is indicative of maybe a little “lovers quarrel” on the way to church. Attitudes [inner feelings] will always bubble up and manifest in some overt way.

A resentful, critical attitude is just like a toxic waste. If we’re going to try and handle such volatile material, then we better take every precaution. Such hazardous material is known to cause cancer. Everyone needs a regular thorough detox from bad attitudes if we’re to stay ahead of the problem, and it’s crucial that we be very thorough in our dealing with attitudes such as anger, resentment, cynicism and criticalness.

Many of us are hardest on the people who’re closest to us. Husbands are hard on their wives. Wives mercilessly criticize their husbands. Parents tear down their children and strip away every vestige of self-esteem. Friends attack friends, Christians criticize each other, and many families are held together by the glue of mutual disdain. Why is it that we are so hard on those we say we love the most? But if a person we don’t know offends us, we’re quick to let him off the hook. It makes no sense.

Christian love is not blind. God never says, “Ignore the faults of others.” But he does say, “Take care of your own faults first.” Look in the mirror! Ask God to show you your own sins. The familiar words of Psalm 139:23-24 come to mind:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

If we would pray that way and mean it, we would do a lot more confessing and a lot less judging.

The order in which we do things is crucial. We are to judge ourselves first by asking God to show us our sins. We sit and wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to show us our weaknesses, our faults, our mistakes, our bad attitudes, our foolish words, our pride, our arrogance, our need to be in control, our need to run the world, our need to tell others what to do, our desire to have our own way, our anger, our bitterness, our lack of mercy, our lack of love, our lack of compassion. I can tell you from personal experience, if you wait long enough, the Lord will always show it to you.


I don’t think there’s a more perfect picture of a bad attitude in the Bible than the prodigal's whining elder brother. This party-pooper was so full of resentment toward his prodigal brother that it’s downright embarrassing.

I confess that I see in myself much that reminds me of the prodigal's elder brother. I have not lived a life of rebellion or moral abandon. I came to Jesus at an early age, began living for Him in earnest as a teen, and have sought to stay true to Him to this day. Don't misunderstand me. I am just as much a sinner as the most profligate prodigal - no difference. And my steady pursuit of Christ has not kept me from presenting a pitiful picture of what it means to be His follower on occasions without number. Despite my failures, flaws, and growing pains along the way, however, I’m a fair example of the classic "good kid."

So when I see the prodigal's descent into the depths of loose living, I can't identify. But when I hear his brother protesting, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours” [Luke 15:29], I hear in his words the voice of my own dissenting heart. I have expressed words like his, words of disappointment in God for His seeming lack of appreciation.

There are prodigals and there are prodigal's brothers. Though we’ve focused mostly on the Prodigal who left home, if we look at the context in which Jesus told this story, taking nothing away from the wayward son, it’s clear that he had the elder brother in mind.

The prodigal's obstacle is his sense of unworthiness to lay claim to the heart of his father. The obstacle of the prodigal's brother is his sense of entitlement, an insistence upon God's approval for his faithfulness. In its advanced stages, "Prodigal's Brother Disease" (PBD) can rob an individual of their joy. We can become a spiritual scrooge who mutters "Bah, humbug" on occasion.

Are you a prodigal's brother? Then the antidote is to serve without strings before it robs you of joy. Stay faithful to God without getting sucked into thinking that God owes you recognition. Your faithfulness matters. Never forget what Jesus says to the prodigal's brother,

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours’

There are many things in which you and I must take the lead, depending on God’s Holy Spirit to help. Paul didn’t say, [I’m paraphrasing here] “I used to speak, act and understand like a child but when I was converted, God just took all my juvenile ways away from me. “ No-Paul said, “When I became a man, “I put away childish things.” Paul didn’t say, “I used to have a problem with discontent. I was rarely happy except in really great circumstances. But one day I got a supernatural revelation on how to be content.” No-Paul said, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself in.”

Instead of you and I saying, “I’ve never had a problem with anger, criticalness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, or any of those old bad attitudes,” we need to say rather, “I’m on a daily quest to be more Christ like and He’s giving me more and more power to discern and root out the B.A [bad attitudes] the devil would like to slip into my heart.” This clears the way for God to infuse more of His Holy Spirit power in us.

Jesus is very clear when he says. “Do not judge. Instead take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We shouldn’t appraise another person’s character unless they reveal their character to us voluntarily. In reality there’s no positive reason to criticize others. But the fact is because of our fallen nature, we’re pretty much all very critical creatures. Without God and His daily dealings with us, we’re all by nature -not very nice people.

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to dialogue with Christians about things political. We know we can’t allow vitriol to exist in our hearts about fellow Christians, but when it comes to politics; we can make up for it by venting our wrath on Politicians or Parties. It’s common to see Christians who’re highly critical of people with whom they differ politically.

I’m not advocating here against open and opinionated political conversations, where we freely and articulately make our views known to whomever, whenever, wherever. A thousand times no!! I often vent publicly on political subjects, and make no apology for it. I do however believe that as Christians, we should beware lest we get so caught up in a battle and a conflict with the folk with whom we disagree that we can develop resentments and judgments that are very unhealthy spiritually.

IMHO, it’s far better to leave off political pontificating when we get to the place that when someone speaks from another viewpoint, there’s virtually no ability to actually hear them. This stems from a critical spirit. It’s a wrong attitude and it quenches the power of God in the Christian’s life. This “devise of the Devil” masquerading as patriotism can rip apart nations, families, churches and even marriages. In other words, speak your mind- Good. Get on a high-horse until every dog on the block is barking, bad.

Another example can be the “small church, large church” syndrome. Christians can get so entrenched in one of the above; it’s hard for them to feel at home in the other. This unease is a critical spirit. In truth, if the gospel is preached, we ought to rejoice. The same thing applies with the “Old-church-Contemporary church” syndrome.

So what do we do? We take thorough stock of our critical heart. We learn to turn our eyes from focusing on the speck in our brother’s eye to the log in our own.

We should immerse ourselves in the teachings of Christ until we understand that any criticalness, unforgiveness, anger, desire to expose, loveless ness, resentment etc. can constitute a spiritual disease that places us in spiritual danger. Don’t, like the Rich Young Ruler, turn away sad in the first rudimentary Christianity 101 class that Jesus gives us. He’s our leader; we need to learn to take spiritual direction from Him. If we take His direction and allow ourselves to be changed by His words and if we respond in a healthy way, then we will find the power we so desperately need.


The following would be helpful. Make a list of all the people you resent or are critical of. Maybe you already do this. I’ve done it for years and still do. The first list I made years ago, I found that the list had over 100 names on it. I was horrified. It seemed I was critical of everyone. The whole world. All political parties. All denominations. Most of my friends. My family. My extended family. My college roommates. Kids from grade school. Members of my church. My kids. My parents. My parent’s old friends. My old friends. My old friend’s parents. My old friend’s brothers and sisters. The English. The French. The Germans. Pentecostals. Conservatives. Liberals. The elders of the church. The deacons. My mentor. My superiors. My co-workers. My ex-co-workers. Old girlfriends. My sister and her husband. My sister’s friends. Her husband’s friends. Kids from the neighborhood. Musicians. Tone deaf people. Theologies. Men in general. Women in general. My circumstances.

To be painfully honest we can all get mad at the world and find it exceeding easy to get resentful of someone just because they don’t respond the way we think they should.

To have a large list does not mean that frustration with life is the main theme of our character. No one would look at me and say I am an angry person. I’m known as a jovial dude. A “Hail fellow well met.” But for a person killed by cyanide they wouldn't have to take a huge amount of cyanide. A little of this toxic stuff can make us spiritually sick. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore, we must make sure that even the slightest remnant of frustration or criticalness be dealt with ruthlessly. You may have to just do it every day and every night for awhile.


After we make our first list (which could take a few hours or a few days), we begin to list what they did that makes us angry or critical. For example, your brother….he didn’t defend me in front of the neighbor kids. Your mom….she divorced your dad. It’s that simple. Do not write a lot of words. Some people greatly err on this point. When we write it all out, we’re venting. Venting only teaches us to be angry. As a rule do not write more than 10 words on an instance. You may break down and weep just thinking about the injustice of it all. This is normal. But I warn against writing a lot about why you are angry on a certain point.

Writing a long dissertation is usually just rationalizing why you are angry as if we’re trying to find some reason to stay angry. We are not trying to stay sore. Also, for some people say like a spouse, we may have many lines of things we are critical of or bent-out-of-shape about. Also when writing about a spouse you might consider a code.


My wife…she gets angry when I go golfing.

My husband….he watches too much TV

My wife….she shows disrespect in front of the kids

My husband…he spends too much money. He bought this…

Bob Smith….he won’t return my call

Joe Jones…he criticized my preaching behind my back.

My boss…he threatened to fire me.

My co-worker…he told the boss I’m not dependable.

My co-worker….he told the boss my department was a problem and didn’t speak to me first.

My co-worker….he said I have an ego problem.

My friend…he won’t take my advice.

The list can go on and on and it should. Be very thorough.

How did this incident hurt you?

What we are doing is accepting that an actual hurt occurred. The incident may have hurt us financially or emotionally. Our spouses’ may have embarrassed us in some way. Yes, that hurt emotionally, financially, socially. This process is simply to help us see that the stuff of life really does hurt us. We are getting real with our heart here. We are being honest that we are indeed quite sore about things.

Ask for Forgiveness for our Anger

At this point, we need to make sure we accept Jesus’ saying,

“I say if you are angry, you are liable before the judgment” (Matt 5:22).

This step is the most important. The Word of God must be our standard. If we have anger, or words of judgment or a critical heart toward our brother or sister, we are liable to the judgment. We have real guilt before God if we have anger. Therefore, we need to be convicted of this sin by the Word and the Spirit. This point cannot be over emphasized. Ask God to take away our anger and our hatred…we admit that our love level is low and in fact do wish harm on some people. Hold the standard up high and get real! This is the key!!

Finding our Fault

Before coming to this step, we need to be thorough about the step of confessing our sin of being angry and critical. We might well take a day or so between steps four and five. Really we are now doing something different. First we were being ruthlessly honest with our sin of anger. We exposed to ourselves the reality that we are a mad, prone to sin person. This confession of deep anger is a breakthrough in itself. I suspect that everyone is a really ticked-off person at least part of the time.


If ever a man had a right to be angry and resentful it was Joseph.

Sold by his brothers into slavery, then wrongly accused of trying to sexually abuse his master’s wife, Joseph gets placed by God into one of the most powerful positions in all of Egypt. Though he’d been mistreated by the Egyptian system, he accepted God’s call to save this pagan land and all the surrounding areas from famine.

Given the opportunity to get back at his brothers because of his position and their need for help, Joseph tests them and then finally reveals who he is. After their reconciliation he receives the blessing of their father before he passes away. They have a huge beautiful funeral and then the brothers once again get scared. They think their brother now has the power to get back at them and so they send a message saying that their father sent word before he died that he wanted Joseph to forgive them all for all the wrongs they’d done to him. Then they finish with, “We are your slaves.” Joseph’s response was to weep before them all. What he says next is so powerful.

’Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.’” (Gen. 50:19-21, NIV)

The movie Dead Man Walking tells the true story of how an unsuspecting Catholic nun became the spiritual director of a death row inmate. Throughout the movie, this prisoner, who was convicted of the brutal murder of a young couple, does little to make us identify with him as a human being. He is sickening and repulsive. Yet this nun, Sister Prejean, continues to guide him, hoping somehow to touch is soul. Finally she leads him to an act of contrition and penance and as a result, he declares to the parents of his victims, "I hope that my death gives you some peace."

But for the parents of the young girl, there is no peace. The only thing they have is their hate. And under the circumstances...their reaction is understandable, even natural.

But, the father of the young man is not as hardened. He attends the grave side services for the murderer, but stands at a distance. Sister Prejean goes to him and he tells her, "Sister, I wish I had your faith." She replies, "It's not faith. It's a lot of WORK."

I’d like to suggest a simple prayer for the Holy Spirit to take over our life. Saying words alone won’t change our hearts, but if these words reflect your deepest desire, then today could be a new beginning.

Heavenly Father, our problem is not with your Word. We know what it says. And our problem is not with other people, not even the ones who have hurt us deeply. Our problem is on the inside. We confess that too many times we have been critical of those around us. Forgive us our thoughtless, unkind, hurtful words. O Lord, show us a better way! Without you, we will never change.

Thank you for showing us how to live. Thank you for showing us how to die. Thank you for showing us how to forgive the people who have hurt us the most.

Holy Spirit, fill us with your power so that we might become truly different people. Set us free from bitterness, from anger, and from a judgmental spirit. Grant us power to love each other.

Make us like Jesus, full of grace and truth. And do it now, in this moment.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Someone To Watch Over Me

By John Stallings

I remember when I was a kid and my parents would go out of town. As soon as we heard they were leaving my sister and I would quickly ask, “Where are you going?”

After being told where our parents were going, somewhere in the exchange of information one of us would ask “Can we go with you?” My parents didn’t go on vacations without us so we invariably knew; they being preachers, -where they were going had something to do with ministry. Maybe a convention or a ministerial seminar. More times than I can count I remember one of my parents saying, “Johnny, son you can’t come this time.”

My next question would be “Well, how long will you be gone?” After gleaning these details either my sister or I would ask the most important question of all, “Who’s gonna look after us?” An overwhelming majority of the time the person who would keep us would be my grandmother, my mother’s mother. It hurts me to say it but she and I didn’t get along all that famously but she was a great cook. Grandma Manley made the best Apple turnovers you ever tasted. Somehow we were always able to “tough it out.”

When Jesus told His disciples he was going to leave them and return to His Father, they naturally had lots of questions to ask also. “Where I’m going you can’t come” Jesus said. Like confused children the disciples asked, “Who will take care of us?” They probably asked, “Where are you going and how long will you be gone?” Jesus’ answer was, in essence; “this much I can tell you; I’m not going to leave you alone. I’ll ask my Father to send you another comforter to stay with you. He will be with you until I return.”-John14:16

In this story Jesus is the “parent” ready to take the next stage of the trip to the cross and to infinity and beyond, and the disciples are the children. Jesus even calls them “little children.” So, is it too much to think of the Holy Spirit as our “babysitter,” the one looking after us while Jesus is away getting things ready, just like he promised?

As we speak, Jesus is in heaven practicing with the heavenly angelic choir so they can roll out the red carpet and give us a rousing welcome to heaven, polishing those pearly gates so that they shine when we arrive. Or, maybe he’s at the great “Wal-Mart in the sky” picking up our favorites. Or, maybe he’s in the garden cutting fresh flowers for our rooms. He’s got to be doing something, right? He’s got to be doing something because he’s taking his own sweet time coming back. I think it safe to say that heaven is in her “last day operations” right now and Jesus is making one last check of the banquet tables.
When it comes to the Rapture, I’ve got to be frank, I cannot for the life of me figure out what’s the hold-up? I’m about ready to get outside and start doing “rapture practices.” But I’ll restrain myself. Just exactly how bad do we have to act before the Holy Spirit picks up the phone, calls Jesus, and says “Hey, man, you gotta come home. This place is out of control.”

When you asked your mother when dinner would be ready, and she said, “in a little while,” you knew you’d better get a snack. Or, when you ask your wife how long ‘til she’s ready and she answers, “in a little while,” how long is that? Suffice to say you might as well watch a John Wayne movie because it’s useless to watch the clock.

I’ve said it before but I still haven’t figured out what takes women so long to get ready to go somewhere. I can be ready to go to the Moon in thirty minutes but it’s not that simple for Juda. Women even have “nighttime rituals” for something as simple as going to bed. Women “get ready for bed.” I’ve never gotten ready for bed in my life, other than brushing my teeth. I just go to bed and I suspect most men do the same.

Biblically speaking, “in a little while” seems to mean 10 years, 100 years, 500 years, 1000 years. From where we sit in 2016, it’s been so long since Jesus said, “I’ll be back in a little while” that some folk wonder if he has forgotten. They ask, “Is he gone for good? And if he is gone, where has he gone and what in the world will we do without him? And what is he doing, exactly, and why doesn’t he show himself?” It’s just like the child waiting for their parents to come back and take charge. “Who will watch over us? And, what do we do in the meantime?”


That’s the question of questions. What do we do in the meantime? Well, one thing’s for sure, the ministry must go on in the meantime. If the disciples could do it, we can do it. No offense to them, but they were no better than us. Jesus promised an Advocate to these disciples and us. This is important - he did not expect them – or us – to be faithful all by themselves. He didn’t expect them to do anything by themselves. In fact, in the Gospel of John, he tells them they CAN’T do anything by themselves.

He is sending an advocate – in the Greek, the word Advocate means- one who is called alongside. The Holy Spirit is called alongside them to strengthen them to do all kinds of things that they could never do for themselves. Someone to teach and advise, but also someone who watches over us, comes alongside and handles situations that baffle us. We could all use an Advocate.


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. -Acts 2:1-4

Do you remember the TV show “Designing Women?” I usually don’t get interested in these “all girl sitcoms,” but occasionally I enjoyed this one. I guess it’s the “Georgia Boy” in me and also the fact that I liked Dixie Carter, at least her character in the show.

She died a while back, and columnist Connie Schultz wrote a tribute to her and her Designing Women character, Julia Sugarbaker. In this article, she says, “The passing of actor Dixie Carter has reminded me just how much most of us could use a friend like Julia Sugarbaker… the smartest and sassiest woman in the Southern Georgia foursome of "Designing Women."

Oh, the thrill whenever Carter's Julia Sugarbaker set her sights on someone who had committed the crime of small-minded thinking, be it prejudice, sexism or just plain stupidity.” That was Julia’s thing – getting riled up – her loyalty made her a fierce power to behold. My favorite scene is at a beauty pageant after Julia hears an arrogant Miss Georgia bad-mouth her baby sister and former Miss Georgia, Suzanne Sugarbaker.

Carter comes alongside of this beauty queen, Marjorie, and lets loose the storm of sisterhood: she defends Suzanne and her baton twirling talent so passionately and so eloquently that you want to stand up and cheer. This is her finale: "And you probably didn't know, Marjorie, that Suzanne was not just any Miss Georgia; she was the Miss Georgia. She didn't twirl just a baton; that baton was on fire. And when she threw that baton into the air, it flew higher, farther, faster than any baton has ever flown before — hitting a transformer and showering the darkened arena with sparks. And when it finally did come down, Marjorie, my sister caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped to their feet for 16 and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation as flames illuminated her tear-stained face. And that, Marjorie — just so you will know and your children will someday know — is the night “The lights went out In Georgia."

Connie Schultz ends her article by saying, no matter how old we get, there’ll always be a Mean Girls Club. Most of us yearn for that Julia Sugarbaker kind of friend who overhears the nasty gossip and steps up to unravel the yarn on our behalf.

Friend, the Holy Spirit is kind of the Julia Sugarbaker of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the one who gets fired up, riled up, fed up and who steps up, who Advocates, who strengthens and inspires and who is in charge, and who does not mind reminding us that he’s in charge until Big Daddy comes home. That’s the plan Stan!

God knows that the Christian life is too difficult to be done alone. When it comes to following Jesus, nothing is done alone. We have his spirit inside us.

We can’t change God’s schedule, but, in the meantime, we have this Advocate watching over us, ready to come along side us and inspire us and lead us on.

It is interesting to note that the word "comforter" was also used for legal aid or the counsel for the defense; so the Holy Spirit is that. Jesus is our aid at the right hand of the Father; the Holy Spirit is our aid on earth. Jesus is an advocate in Heaven; the Holy Spirit is a conditional advocate on earth.

The reason Jesus had to return to Heaven was twofold. First, He went to do His work. Hebrews 7:25,

"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

Second, He went to give the Holy Spirit HIS work to do.

There are other times when He will empower and strengthen OTHERS to say just the words you need and give you just the comfort you need. This does not mean the Holy Spirit is not doing the comforting. He is leading and strengthening someone and using him to comfort us and strengthen us in our time of need. At times He runs alongside to help and there is no human aid in sight. At other times, He leads someone to come to us to be our aid, our comforter, to pick us up. In either case, this is the work of the Spirit. He simply sometimes chooses to use human help.

In my own life there have been many times the Holy Spirit alone has been my comforter. In the mid-nineties, I lost both my parents within a six month period. I can remember standing by their caskets and though my heart was breaking I could feel the Holy Spirit comforting me. I could almost feel fingers touching my arm. It was the Holy Spirit coming HIMSELF to watch over me, to look out for me and give me comfort.

Then this same Holy Spirit led others to speak words of comfort to me; He led loving friends to encourage my heart. He was comforting and strengthening me both WITH and WITHOUT human instruments. The Christian should yield himself to the Holy Spirit in order that the Spirit may use him to comfort, strengthen and restore others.

When the Christian writes a note of comfort, he should ask the Holy Spirit to deliver it for him and to use it as a strength and comfort. When a word of comfort or strength is spoken to a bereaved or weary friend, the power of the Holy Spirit should accompany that word. Hence, the Christian should speak to the Holy Spirit BEFORE he speaks the word of comfort, asking Him to speak words that he cannot speak and to leave impressions that he cannot leave in order that he may be used as a tool of the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen the discouraged, weak, lonely, bereaved or fallen brother. There is a wonderful truth in John 14:26,

"But the Comforter, Which is the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

Notice the words, "and bring all things to your remembrance." The Spirit-led and Spirit-filled Christian may so yield himself to the Holy Spirit that when he comforts , the Holy Spirit will bring to mind what he ought to say. The Christian will enter into the very work of the Spirit Himself as a tool to be a comforter.

Thank God for those times the Holy Spirit Himself has come to lift me up and strengthen, and to comfort me. Thank the Lord for those times when He has touched a friend and spoken through him as a human instrument to comfort me and strengthen me and lift me up. And thank God for those times when He has used me as a tool to comfort others! My prayer is,-Oh, Holy Spirit, use me again and again and again and again to strengthen the weak, lift up the fallen, encourage the discouraged, offer fellowship to the lonely, give a smile to the sad and comfort to the bereaved and weary.

It is interesting to note that in a sense Jesus had to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come, that the Christian might be benefited to the fullest. For one thing, Jesus can serve us better in his glory and we can do greater works because the Holy Spirit came.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father." –John 14:12

Jesus entered the very presence of the Father; at the Father's side He can help us and intercede for us. He knows our needs more. He felt them while He was here, so He can send the Holy Spirit to dispense the fulfillment of our needs. Hence, He helps the Father to know our needs. Though He doesn't have to persuade the Father to help us, He does remind Him of what help we need. Jesus isn’t interceding for sinners, that’s our job. He’s interceding for you and me.

When I was a young pastor, I did so many things myself that I later had others to do. I have filled the baptistery, prepared the communion cups, cleaned the building, turned on the lights, turned on the heat/AC, printed the church bulletin, drove the church bus, taught a Sunday School class and of course preached. Sometimes I even led singing. However, with the passing of the years and the increasing of the church membership I‘d have others to do what I used to do. Though I’d miss the personal contact and many of the tasks, it is expedient to my church people that I administrate so that greater works can be done than were once done when I did it all myself. I could say to my people, "It is expedient that I go to administrate, for I can send many others to do the work that I did and get more done."

Jesus was our comforter while He was here, though in a sense He continues to comfort from the right hand of the Father. He has sent us the Holy Spirit to comfort us and through that Holy Spirit greater works can be done than were done when our Lord was here.

I am sitting in our computer room now writing these words. If Jesus were in Jerusalem tonight, I would catch the first plane tomorrow morning and I would fly to see Him. However, in all probability I wouldn’t get to see Him or talk to Him, for millions of others would be seeking the same privilege as I.

If He were here on earth, it just may be I would never get to touch His hand, see His face or talk to Him personally. But now that He’s gone and has sent the Holy Spirit, He is in this room with me in the wee hours of the morning, and I feel His presence. I can talk with Him. In this sense, it was expedient for me that He go away, for through the Holy Spirit, I can be with Jesus anywhere I am, even in the wee hours of the morning in a quiet room in Florida.

Isn’t it comforting that we have this Third part of the trinity to strengthen us, lift us up when we’re trodden down? Isn’t it thrilling to know we have…

Someone to watch over us?



Not Global Warming.....Global Groaning!

By John Stallings

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body….but theSpirit itself maketh interession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:18-23-26)

When you’ve spent as much time as I have over the years visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and standing beside new- made graves, you’re no stranger to groaning.

My father spent the last six years of his life in nursing homes. Our family sometimes felt like we lived there. I’ve been known to do a little groaning myself from time to time. Kidney stones and Migraines do that to you. I’ve heard people groaning in pain, despair, and in deep sorrow. When young people are ill or injured, they groan, but they groan with a hope that their bodies will be restored to full health, and they will be able to resume their normal activities.

Older folk have little hope that these present bodies of ours will be restored to the full vigor of youth that they once enjoyed. Many people groan to be released from the pain that they are experiencing. Some people have been made so sad by the various tragedies of life, they too groan for some sort of release from this present pain of mind and spirit. Some even groan, hoping for death. They believe that even death would be preferable to the pain that they are experiencing.

Then, there are those who have hope for a better life in another world, and they groan for that day when they will be released to enjoy a life that is free from all the distresses of body and soul. There is a desire in many people to be “redeemed,” in the sense of being set free from the pains and sorrows of this life.

Paul tells us that creation itself groans for redemption:

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22).

This passage of scripture is indeed mind-boggling. Paul says that even inanimate creation, even the natural elements, even the animals that are not capable of rational thought, know that something is wrong in this world. The world shouldn’t be filled with this kind of suffering, decay, and death, and the creation itself longs for liberation. This passage teaches us that even the non-rational part of creation longs for deliverance from the consequences of sin.

I read somewhere that in Taos New Mexico there’s a subtle, high-pitched humming or some sort of noise that can be heard 24/7-365. I’ve never personally been there but it doesn’t surprise me, because if we had a keen listening ear, we could no doubt hear our whole planet groaning. Do you think I’m taking Paul’s words too literally? Though I know about “types and shadows” and realize some things in the Bible are of a symbolic nature, the overwhelming majority can be taken literally.

Paul personifies all of creation, gives it a voice, and describes that natural order as looking at us and saying, “We’ll be glad when you’re delivered from the effects of your sin, because on the day that happens, the entire universe will be delivered from the effects of sin.” Nature fell on man’s coattails and will someday rise on his coattails.

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, that sin didn’t affect human beings only. After the fall, we became subject to decay and death, but it not only came to us, it came to all of creation as well. The whole universe has suffered the consequence of man’s sin. When Adam sinned, God said,

“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”

I grew up in Florida where grass burrs are plentiful. As I remember we used to call them “sand-spurs.” They took a lot of the fun out of going bare-foot. If you walked through most yards in the summer months you’d probably pick up some grass burrs and you know how painful they are. Had it not been for the Fall, we could walk through fields with bare feet and never experience any kind of pain. The ground was cursed because of sin. As a result of sin, this world became a violent and bloody place where the motto is “Eat, or be eaten.”

Certainly there’s much beauty in this world but there’s much that is horrible in creation. I was watching one of the nature specials the other night about anacondas, these huge snakes that squeeze their prey to death. They were showing a scene where an anaconda was squeezing a turtle to death, but the narrator said that it may take 20 hours for that turtle to die. I think that’s a pretty horrible scene. Food didn’t taste the same to me until I could get that picture out of my mind. Watching those nature shows can be every bit as chilling as a murder mystery.

The condition of nature is the result, not of God’s original design, and not for the most part, the presence of man but rather, the result of man’s sin.  Paul said,

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.”Romans 8:20.

The creation suffered as a result of man’s sin, but this passage tells that creation itself has hope, for verse 21 tells us that the creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. The Cosmos/Creation is looking forward to a liberation.

Creation will be liberated from its bondage to corruption. The word for corruption in verse 21 is the word “phthora,” which is the same word Paul uses it in I Cor. 15 when he talks about how these mortal bodies of ours are sown in “corruption, but raised in incorruption,” not subject to perishing or being destroyed. Sometimes this word for corruption was used in a moral and ethical sense, referring to moral corruption and decay, but that is not the sense in which it is used here.

We’re talking about the non-rational part of creation, so it wouldn’t be correct to think of creation looking for some kind of deliverance from sin or a sinful nature that human beings have. The bondage of corruption refers to the death and decay that has come into the world as a result of man’s sin. Nature seems to be locked into an unending cycle of decline, decay, death, and decomposition, which is nature’s bondage, and it seems that it will always suffer that kind of bondage. Right now, the creation is experiencing what Paul calls vanity, or futility. Paul says, “For the creature was made subject to vanity, futility.”

Creation still works in a beautiful, orderly fashion because God made it in such a way that it still runs smoothly in spite of the consequences of the fall. But, as a result of the fall, it became subject to futility; that is, creation cannot fully achieve the end for which it was brought into existence. Creation wasn’t meant to be something subject to decay and death and Paul says that even though this is the condition of creation right now, it won’t remain this way forever. The universe is not going to be destroyed, but liberated, fumigated, transformed, and permeated with the glory of God.

As someone has said, “The universe is not headed for annihilation, but transformation.” The NIV translates verse 21,

“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The Good News Translation has it, “Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

As we look at creation, in the midst of all its beauty, we also see decay and corruption. But the creation is looking forward to the time when it will be delivered.

One day, this horror will come to an end. We are told that the creation will be liberated into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Creation is going to go from slavery to liberty. How is that transformation going to be accomplished? Paul tells us that creation will share in the glory that is going to be bestowed upon the children of God. When we are totally redeemed, when all lingering vestiges of the results of our sin have been taken away from us, the effects of sin are going to be taken away from creation as well. The children of God are going to be glorified. We are going to receive glorious bodies like the glorious body of Christ, and when that happens, all of creation is going to be transformed and reflect the glory of God in a way even more amazing than it does now.


Paul goes on to tell us that this eager anticipation on the part of the creation should be obvious to us, because he says when you look around, it seems as though the creation is groaning and travailing in pain. These groans and travails are not death pangs, but birth pangs. These are not the death throes of creation, as though it is about to go out of existence. No, these are birth pangs. These are not groans of despair. These are groans of hope. These are the kinds of groans that a woman in labor has—groans filled with hope that the child will soon be born.

 At the present time, creation is travailing like a woman about to give birth. Paul uses the phrase “until now” to show that the travail has been going on for quite some time. She is still in labor,- groaning. Just as that woman in labor has hope that this will soon be over, so the creation has hope that all of this suffering, pain, decay, and corruption will soon come to an end. Notice with me….


In the last few years, more than 300,000 people world-wide died as a result of natural disasters, which is far more than the average of 77,000 deaths each year.

The earthquake in Chile killed almost 1,000, and the floods in Pakistan and China killed more than 3,200. There were 950 major disasters recorded last year, more than any other year since 1980. There were almost three major disasters every day somewhere in the world.

Something is happening. The people of the world have no idea what is the cause. Craig Fugate, the director of FEMA, which is the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said, “It just seems like it's  back-to-back and coming in waves… The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning."


On the afternoon of January 12, 2010 the residents on the island nation of Haiti were going about their business as usual when a violent earthquake shook the island into upheaval, killing approximately 225,000 people and leaving 1,000,000 homeless.

250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were all destroyed. A year later, more than a million people are still homeless, living in tents and other makeshift structures. Then in October 2010 the misery worsened as a cholera outbreak began sickening over 100,000 people and killing more than 3,300 earthquake survivors.

FEMA handled 79 disasters in 2010, which was a record. The average is 34.

In 2010, earthquake activity was more than all the years prior to it, except 2007, particularly for magnitude 5.0 and higher quakes. There were more earthquakes above 7.0 magnitude in 2010 than in any previous year at least as far back as 1970 but probably in all of recorded history.

It is also important to note that up until 1999, earthquakes above magnitude 5.0 were well under 500 per year. Then in 2000 the number of large quakes started to climb rapidly. For the first time, there were more than 500 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher. Then in 2002 it was over 1,000. Then by 2007 it was around 2,200 earthquakes with magnitude of 5.0 or higher. While the total number of earthquakes each year will vary, it is important for students of prophecy to know that in the last 9 years especially, there has been a substantial run-up of major earthquakes by a staggering factor of at least 600%.

Also, the “normal” number of earthquakes greater than magnitude 7.0 is supposedly 16. But in 2010 there were 22, a whopping increase of 72%.

Big quakes of 7.0 magnitude or higher struck Indonesia four times, Vanuatu and Japan twice each, the
Philippines, the Solomon Islands, India, Mexico and Ecuador as well as New Zealand. There are countless thousands of smaller earthquakes that don’t make much obvious impact. Something is
happening. The acceleration of the number and magnitude of earthquakes lays a foundation for further instability in the near future.

Then there was the powerful Icelandic volcano last April. The spewing magma and ash grounded the whole airline system over Europe, which spread its effects to almost every corner of the globe. 100,000 flights were cancelled over 6 days. And if the Volcano would have erupted for a longer period of time, there would have been substantial difficulties in getting food and other basic necessities into the shops and warehouses of Europe. If it would have gone on long enough, it would have been more than stranded travelers who would have panicked. European society could have been greatly stressed, or even unraveled. Imagine a whole sophisticated society like Europe in a state of panic because they cannot get their needs met.

Something is happening, and it’s worldwide. Natural events of all sorts are coming at a rapid-fire pace. The world is under siege. Why? What’s the reason?


Major floods were recorded in Poland, Portugal and Pakistan; Brazil, France, Romania, several places in Canada and the USA, China, Hungary, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Indonesia, Serbia, Argentina, Kenya, Nigeria, Guatemala, Singapore, and several places in Australia. In fact, the relentless floods in Queensland, Australia covered an area larger than Texas. That’s a lot of land! Several people were killed and more than 200,000 were stranded without access to supplies during this unprecedented catastrophe, with over a billion dollars in damage.

Other weather records were set in 2010. Extreme heat was recorded in Los Angeles, California in September of 113 degrees Fahrenheit [or 45 degrees Celsius] while Pakistan took a hit of 129 degrees Fahrenheit [54 degrees Celsius] and may be the hottest temperature on record in an inhabited area of the globe. Drought struck too. China, Russia and Ukraine had severe droughts. So did the Amazon. Parts of the Amazon River basin were at their lowest water levels in recorded history.

Something is happening? Why the wild weather? What is the reason for these extreme changes?

Have you ever heard of a 2-pound hailstone? One fell in North Dakota during a storm that did enough damage to class those areas as one of the seven disaster areas for that state in 2010.

A tornado recently even struck in New York City. It happened on September 16 of last year killing one person and walloping Brooklyn and Queens with a brutal storm.

In one day, Indonesia got hit with a trio of deadly catastrophes; an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude, a deadly tsunami, and volcano – 500 dead, 390,000 homeless. But that was “after flooding, landslides and more quakes which had killed hundreds earlier in the year.

Many scientists, news writers and other media outlets are quick to claim that all this severe weather and other disasters are because of global warming, and they blame humans for causing much of it.

When Paul says that the creation groans and travails “together,” he doesn’t mean that creation groans “together with believers.” He means that the entirety of creation, all parts of it are joining together in this groaning, this longing. One commentator puts it like this, “The entire creation, as it were, sets up a grand symphony of sighs.” Creation is looking forward to the day when Christians will be completely, finally, and totally redeemed in every way.

Sound strange? Not really!

The idea that nature itself would be renewed is one of the key Old Testament visions about the Messianic Age. In Isa. 65 we read,

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD” (Isa. 65:17-25).

Think about it…there is coming a time when Lions will stop eating Lamb-chops.


In Romans 8:23, He says that not only does the creation groan, but we also groan. Since creation groans, how much more should we groan who have the first fruits of the Spirit? As you remember, first fruits point to the certainty of the final harvest. When the people of Israel gathered the first fruits of the harvest, they looked upon those first fruits as a guarantee that more was to come. In this passage, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is our first fruits.

The Holy Spirit has been given to us, and He is the guarantee of even greater blessings that we’ll receive in the future. The Holy Spirit has given us such wonderful blessings in this life, but we still groan for a better life, a better world. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives now is a pledge that we are going to receive the full blessing of our redemption at the time of the resurrection of our bodies. The Holy Spirit in us is a constant reminder that we haven’t experienced all of the blessings of our salvation.

Paul says that what we are groaning for is the redemption of the body, the time when this body will have been delivered from things like sickness, age, decay, and death. Though we have been redeemed spiritually, we are still awaiting for the final blessings that await these bodies. Like the creation, we live in frustration, our bodies still being subject o the bondage of decay, pain, and death. But the Holy Spirit is the pledge of the adoption, the redemption of our body.

We groan within ourselves. We are groaning for the completion of our redemption. We are groaning under the burden of the imperfection that we see in our lives. The Holy Spirit is purifying us, making us more like Christ, but as we grow in holiness, we also have a hunger for more of it.

We only have a partial enjoyment of the harvest but the first fruits of the Spirit have whetted our appetite for more. In this present life, the Holy Spirit gives us joy, and when we think about the future we rejoice because of the hope we have, but this interim period fills us with a kind of painful cosmic longing. There is a longing for the glory that shall be revealed in us. It is a groaning like the groaning of creation to be liberated from this decay and death. In II Cor. 5:4-5, Paul said,

“For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”

Here Paul talks about how we are groaning to receive that new body that the Lord has prepared for us. Again, he mentions that the Holy Spirit is the earnest, the down payment, the guarantee, that these bodies are going to be clothed with immortality.

As Christians we have a great deal of joy, and we want to show the world that we have joy. But even in our most joyful moments in this world, there is present with us this groaning, wanting to be home with the Lord, wanting to experience the full blessings of our redemption.

There was a time in Church history when Christians always looked sad, and they thought that those sad expressions were a sign of spirituality. We have rightly rejected this, but now has the church gone too far in the other direction? Though we have many joys in the Christian life, we still do some groaning.

Don’t we groan for the time when will no longer see our loved ones and ourselves wracked with pain? Don’t we groan for the time when we will never have to be separated from our loved ones? Don’t we groan for the time when will never again have to use those words, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”? We groan for the redemption of the body, which Paul refers to in this passage as “the adoption.”

We’ve already been adopted into the family of God, but the fullest expression of our adoption, the crowning proof that we are the children of God, will be when these bodies of ours are raised from the dead, that moment when we receive a body like his glorious body. The resurrection of the body is the redemption of the body. It is also the full manifestation of our sonship, our adoption, so much so, that in this passage, Paul makes “the adoption” and the “redemption of the body” equivalent expressions. There is certainly more to our adoption than the resurrection, but evidently, we are to see the resurrection of the body as the culminating act of our redemption.

When we see volcanoes erupting, hurricanes, tsunomi’s, floods and tornadoes, and other natural disasters, we should see them, not as “global warming” but rather as the birth pangs of the creation, longing for the day when the creation will no longer manifest such effects of the curse.

When we see pelicans mired in the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, we should see them as groaning for the day of redemption when such things will never happen again. When we sin, when we fail the Lord, when we hurt one another, when we experience mental suffering or anguish, when we see loved ones taken away from us, it’s O.K to groan for that time when we’ll never groan again, when we will never walk the halls of hospitals and nursing homes and hear those terrible cries of pain.

When we and the entire universe, at the return of The Son Of God, will be delivered from corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sometimes The Boat Sinks Anyway

By John Stallings

Shipwrecks are fascinating.

Remember the movie, “Titanic?” It was the blockbuster movie of the year all about the ship which was called “unsinkable” hitting an iceberg & going down on her first & only voyage.

What did the Titanic teach us? For one thing the maritime nations of the world changed their policies about ship’s radio rooms after a neighboring ship turned off its radio set for the night because it was bedtime, when the Titanic was starting to sink with hundreds of souls beneath the cold waves.

Shipbuilders learned about lifeboats becoming useless when a ship lists to one side. And they also learned you have to have enough lifeboats for all on board. And maybe they learned from the Titanic not to boast as if she were actually unsinkable because clearly, she wasn’t.

In this article we’ll look at perhaps the most famous shipwreck in history, Paul’s shipwreck in route to Rome & see what spiritual lessons we can learn. That story is dramatically told in Acts 27.

One thing I’ll tell you up front is that the storm Paul encountered has to be one of the most horrendous experiences any man ever endured. It lasted two weeks & much of that time neither the sun nor stars were seen.

I’ve lived in Florida most of my life & can tell you that two days in the grip of a ferocious storm is about all a human can endure, & that’s’ with the provision that you’re on stable ground, not like Paul, aboard a small ship.

We’ll see one thing for absolutely certain, & that is even in the worst of times, God’s redeeming hand can come forth & give us a reason for hope & good cheer.

Secular literary experts & writers have given kudos’ to chapters 27 & 28 of Acts which recount Paul’s shipwreck, saying that for sheer purity of story telling, they are unrivaled in all the history of the literary world.

Luke, who wrote Acts, besides being a physician, was a cracking good writer & storyteller. If it weren’t for Luke we’d not have what has become the classic telling of the Christmas story. If it weren’t for Luke we’d have never heard the line, “There was no room in the end,” nor would we know about the stable, the shepherds or the angels.

Luke alone gives us the memorable parables of the Prodigal Son & the Good Samaritan. Luke introduces us to little Zacchaeus & crafted the post-Easter story about the “Road to Emmaus.”

In the book of Acts Luke tells us about “The day Of Pentecost,” the drama of Ananias & Sapphira, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul’s Damascus road conversion, Eutychus falling out the window after a long sermon by Paul, & the missionary journeys of Paul, Peter & the other Apostles.

But nowhere in Luke’s writings are his rich descriptive powers on display better than in the last two chapters of Acts.

Luke’s telling of Paul’s shipwreck has even been studied by scholars as a kind of primer in ancient sea-faring techniques. Luke’s description of the sailors, the ship, the riggings are so detailed as to give us an accurate, technological glimpse into how they used to navigate the seas back then.

But as an evangelist, Luke never wrote only for the artistry of it all. His purpose was always to help the reader to come to a better & stronger faith in The Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

As Acts opens, Luke is encouraging Theophilus & his flock to see that there were always struggles in the Christian life & that there was never any “golden-age” of the church during which there were no problems, quarrels among believers, no mistakes & no suffering.

In my opinion nowhere in scripture do you see that message more clearly than in Acts 27. Paul’s shipwreck is an actual historical event but it’s also a kind of parable & metaphor with its high seas, storms that come & winds that howl, for the trials & difficulties in the lives of believers.

Paul had been traveling across the Near East for nine months preaching through Israel & Syria, Turkey & Greece & now he’s headed for the greatest city in the land, the center of military & political might on earth, Rome.

He’s requested an audience with Caesar. He’s been under arrest for a while & has exhausted his legal options in the smaller venues so as a Roman citizen he has this final right to take his case directly to Caesar & it couldn’t be denied. You have to give Paul some credit, he went for it. So now, finally he’s being transported via ship to Italy.

Paul is on a grain-carrying ship, which is also a ship full of prisoners. Against his advice the sailors are going to try a wintertime trip during the stormiest season. During this era, massive amounts of grain were being transported by ship which was a money-maker for the ship owners, thus their willingness to take a risk.

As Paul predicted, the ship & its crew encountered a nightmare of a storm. It didn’t take an experienced sailor to know there’d be no saving of the ship. The sailors did all possible to keep the ship afloat, including throwing grain overboard & finally things that were vital to the ships viability. In the end all that was saved were the souls on board. This brings me to the first important point;


The sailors worked night & day, undergirding the ship, which means they ran cables underneath the ship to keep the planks from separating & twice they lightened the load to keep it afloat. If you & I are in a storm & our boat is sinking, if we don’t do everything we can it will probably sink. While the saying “God helps them who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible, the principle & thought most certainly is.

When I was a kid they used to say, “Work like it all depends on you then pray like it all depends on God.” Good advice.

Ephesians 6:10-17 admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God,” & it lists all the battle dress for the child of God. God doesn’t put the armor on us, we do that ourselves & though God will help us, we’re expected to put on the armor & be ready to fight the fight of faith. Next;


The sailors prayed they’d see the light of day.

I remember reading about a woman who worked in a factory & was trained to operate an expensive machine. After her training, her superior told her if the machine ever got jammed, not to try to force it to work, but to call for him.

One day the machine jammed & the woman began to do everything she could to get it working. She cut it off, then cut it back on, pushed & pulled to no avail. She worked frantically with the jammed machine until she smelled smoke & finally cut it off & called her supervisor. When the supervisor came & checked the machine out, he saw that the well intentioned woman had burned up its motor. The woman cried & said, “I did all I could do to get the machine running again.” Her boss said, “Lady, you’ve never done all you can do until you’ve called me.”

After you & I have exhausted all our efforts & seen no success, & we’ve come to the end of our abilities, we can call on our heavenly Father in prayer & be assured of His help.

If however we fail to call on God & our boat hits the bottom, we have to take the responsibility for the calamity.

Have you ever wondered---?


Some people believe if you have enough faith you’ll never encounter a storm but in this story, Paul, “God’s man of the hour, -of faith & power” gets into a killer hurricane & it goes on for two weeks.

This may shock you, but—Faith produces storms!

There’s nothing in the Bible even remotely hinting that a Christian will be exempt from trouble. You very well could come under persecution in your life just for being a Christian. Jesus, Job & many of the Bible greats got into trouble not because they were bad but because they were good.

There is more persecution of Christians worldwide at present than there ever has been in history. We should be grateful we’ve not been called on to resist unto blood. In countries like Australia & Canada the pulpit has been declared a public place & ministers have been fined & threatened for things they’ve preached. Things that heretofore could be said freely are now prosecuted under “hate speech laws.”

Maybe your persecution will be so subtle you hardly even recognize it as persecution. You might have someone say, “You know, you profess to be a Christian but……” --then they proceed to rake you over the coals, holding you to some standard they themselves miss by a million light years.

The fact that they profess nothing & you profess Christ somehow in their mind leaves them freer to condemn you. The real motive behind their attacks against you is their disgust for your love & devotion to Jesus Christ.

Though the ship Paul is sailing on is tossed around like a toothpick & he hasn’t seen the sun in days, he doesn’t panic. He stands before the 276 sailors aboard & assures them that God will spare all of their lives, with one provision; they unequivocally must stay with the ship. Here’s another lesson;


One of the temptations in a storm is to try to get away from the problem.

I’m tempted to laugh when I hear young ladies say things like, “I’m tired of all these house rules & pressures from my parents, & I’m going to leave home & get married.” This young lady doesn’t know much about marriage if she thinks it means liberty to do exactly as she pleases.

I smile when I hear young men say, “I’m sick of people telling me what to do & having to live with curfews & all that stuff, I’m going to join the Marines.” This young man will get a surprise when he arrives at boot-camp.

Here’s a question for all of us; --how are we ever going to see God perform a miracle if we leave the place where the miracle is needed?

The most important thing a person could possess to be successful, outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, is stickability. Staying power; the ability not to run when the going gets tough. You may need a vacation, but don’t jump ship. You may have to fast & pray but don’t jump ship.


Luke tells us after a few days rolling around in this killer of a storm that the sailors started lightening the ship. To show you how desperate they were, they even threw overboard the grain which could have been eaten.

Then things got so desperate they threw overboard the tackling of the ship.

If I knew exactly what tackling was I’d share it with you but for the life of me I can’t tell you. It must have been masking & sails & other paraphernalia but I know they had tackling on the ship. They probably went out & bought tackling before they shoved off. I can hear two sailors talking a day or two before the ship was to sail, “Hey Sam, we’ve got to get some tackling for the ship before we sail you know?” “Right Joe,” Sam retorts, “we have to get that tackling.” Hey Sam, what’s tackling?” Sam probably said, “Well, I don’t rightly know what tackling is either but they told me to go buy some & there’s a tackling store down on Main Street.”


I don’t know what the tackling is in your life. It would probably be different than my tackling but we all have tackling. I think a good rule of thumb would be; --tackling is whatever we don’t really need to survive when things start getting stormy in our lives.

We’re entering choppy waters in America economically & politically. Sadly we’re seeing unprecedented home foreclosures, high energy costs & people of all strata’s are feeling the squeeze. We’re entering an era now where things that we’ve always had in abundance will be harder & harder to come by.

Yet our culture is a consumer oriented culture geared toward always showing us things we need to “be happy.” I have a car with over one-hundred thousand miles on it & it’s a great car. However now & then I get itchy, wanting to buy a new car with that new car smell & look. The advertisements tell me there are 48 easy payments. I know that’s a lie. There may be two easy payments, the first & last ones, but those other 46 payments are hard.

In America we strive for bigger houses, better cars, more money & power. Jesus never taught us to directly condemn wealth but He spoke often about the danger that wealth could cause.


What would drive a person to sell their body? Why would someone risk prison by selling illegal drugs? What drives people to cheat on their taxes or break into homes & steal? M.O.N.E.Y.

Jesus taught that there only two masters, not God & the devil, but God & money. Mammon is a Syrian God of money & people bowed down to it & worshipped it. They prayed for its success in their lives. In short there was a demonic stronghold & it held sway over people. When Jesus spoke of the God/mammon, people knew what He was talking about.

Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10—For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness & pierced themselves through with many sorrows.


In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus told us about 3 men who were entrusted with money & then God basically stood back to see how they’d handle the money that He deposited into their care. When we stand before God He will ask us how we spent the time & talent He invested in us while on earth.

When Jesus went to church, He didn’t sit on the front seat or the back seat. Believe it or not, He sat over by the offering plate actually watching what the people were dropping in. What if your preacher did that?—Matt.12:41


I don’t have space to drill down into the true nature of tithing in this writing but suffice to say it’s a weekly reminder of who’s in charge of our lives, God or God-mammon.

After Paul & the other passengers on board this ship had struggled for two weeks, the ship they were sailing on splintered into pieces & all of them made it safely to shore on a little island called Melita, or modern day Malta.


Here’s something amazing; while Paul was fighting for his life & the lives of others aboard a ship that was just about to disintegrate, with all kinds of violent wind, an out of control steering gear & steady pounding by huge waves, Paul had a dream or a vision.

Isn’t that something? This dream didn’t come when things were going smoothly, this appearance of an angel from God. There was no mood music playing & pastel lights turned low. No, thanks be to God He spoke to Paul when things were in chaos, when there was trouble on the left, disaster on the right, problems up ahead & tragedy right behind. That’s when God chose to speak to Paul.

When things get a little crazy, maybe God knows He has our attention. God speaks to us through thoughts, dreams, visions, instincts & a multitude of other ways. Many times He’ll speak when we are full of adrenaline trying to meet the clear & present danger that we face. God can & does often speak when we are so exhausted we don’t think we can do another thing productive to keep things afloat.

Are you going through a storm? It won’t be all bad if God uses that time to let you see things in a different light.


Sometimes in spite of all your efforts & all your tears & all your prayers & all the love you've invested , all of it will die right before your eyes. Just like the destruction of the boat Paul was traveling on, after the victory he saw in the salvaging of every soul on board, his boat sank anyway. In these times it's important to remember that God is still in control & His children will be rescued no matter what.

Most of us are familiar with the eccentric [I almost wrote crazy man] cable television billionaire Ted Turner. At an American Humanist Association banquet when he received an award for his work on the environment & world peace, he openly criticized Christianity.

He said, “Jesus would be sick at His stomach over the way His ideas have been twisted. I’ve been saved seven or eight times but I gave it up when despite my prayers my sister died. The more I strayed from the faith the better I felt.”

Ted Turner is dead wrong but his attitude isn’t much different than many, especially people who’ve been around as long as Turner. It’s interesting at least to me that Turner & I, give or take a few days, are exactly the same age.

Like Ted Turner, I’ve seen my share of “boats” sink & hit the bottom. Some of my greatest heartaches have come because of the failure of people I’ve loved.

I know I’m not alone in this but I’ve helped people in my life & have been shocked & disappointed when they turned against me & did everything in their power to destroy me. I’ve lived to see [not believe] that seemingly “no good deed goes unpunished.”

If God had put me together differently I’d have long ago sworn-off helping anyone ever again. But something in my heart has demanded that I keep reaching out to others as much as is in my power.

I’ve had friendships but certain things have happened which broke the friendship & the wreckage blights the landscape of my life.

Like Turner I also have had prayers that so far have seemed unanswered but the difference is, I truly believe that God’s at work in every detail of my life & the only reason He didn’t give me what I asked for is so that He may, in His own time, give me something better.

No matter what happens to you today it will be better tomorrow.

I believe that if you just live, you’ll outlive many of your problems. I’ve learned that people love the human touch, a warm hug or just a pat on the back. I believe that even when I’m in pain I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that no matter how many “ships” I see sink God will put others in my life if I refuse to get bitter & keep an open heart.

I have learned, I truly have learned, that I still have a lot to learn.

Paul understood that even in the midst of life’s storms, God proclaims, God performs & God provides,- in your storm, or in mine, ---in a private storm or a public one,

In the life of an individual ---or a church or a nation.