Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lord It's Hard To Be Humble!

By John Stallings


Maybe you heard the story of the turtle that lived up north & wanted to go south for the winter.

Smart turtle that he was, he hatched up the idea to get two birds that would be going south anyway to help him. His idea was to ask these strong fliers each to carry the end of a stick in their mouths while he bit down with his mouth on the middle of the stick.

The idea was great & the thousand miles- plus trip passed without incident until they were coming in for a landing in Miami. As they flew low over the heads of the hundreds of spectators, people were saying, “Wow, what a great idea. I wonder whose idea that was?”

Wanting the credit, the turtle opened his mouth to say, “It’s my idea.” That act of pride was the death of him. Oh, Lord, it’s hard, even for a turtle, to be humble.

One time a fly crawled into the ear of a horse pulling a generals chariot. He looked around then said to the horse, “My, aren’t we raising a lot of dust?” Then there was the flea on the back of the Elephant & as they passed over a hanging bridge he said, “Boy, didn’t we make that bridge shake?” The last one concerns a woodpecker that was pecking on a large tree when lightening struck the tree knocking it down. Flying away the woodpecker thought out loud, “My, look at what I did to that tree.” Lord it’s hard to be humble.

Did you ever have an old song that you really didn’t even like get stuck in your head? It happens to me occasionally.

Maybe you remember Mac Davis’ song;

"Oh, Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way, I can’t wait to look in the mirror; I get better looking each day. Oh, Lord It’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can."

Most of us smile when we hear this song. We smile, though we’d never admit it, because somewhere deep inside us all lurks the feeling that we’re special, we’re the smartest, the coolest, the richest, the quickest, the most unique or the most popular.

 I recently wrote an article dealing with the down side of making assumptions and I stand by that unequivocally. However, there are some places in life where you and I would do well to make an assumption or two.One of those places is in the area of greed. Have you noticed that we can quickly spot greed in someone else's life but find it difficult to spot it in our own life? Another  area where most of have a blind spot is in the area of humility. We can spot the other fellow's pride easier than we can spot ours. Am I right?

My feeling is  when we approach these two things as well as some others  we should just assume that we're  to some degree guilty and our periscope can't objectively see the whole truth.Then we can come to God as humbly as we know how and ask him to thoroughly search our hearts.

Ted Turner, founder of CNN once told an interviewer, with a straight face, “You know, if I had a little more humility I’d be just about perfect, don’t you think? Lord, it’s hard to be humble. [Even when you’re stupid enough to give The United Nations a billion dollars.]

When we were kids we’d go to school & boast that our dads were stronger, richer, & smarter than anyone else’s dad. In our teen years we wanted to have the right jeans, the right shoes, the right bracelet etc. so we’d be accepted by the right people.

Parents are just about as bad in boasting about their children & play a perpetual game of one-upsmanship. It goes something like this; “Are your kids smart? Well my kids are smarter, wiser, more athletic & more popular. As a matter of fact don’t get me started on my grand kids. As you might expect they’re super-stars, brilliant & class officers. Did your children go to a community college? Well mine got into Harvard.”

We also like to boast about the town where we live. It goes; “Is your city or area where you live an outstanding place to live? Well my city has a famous baseball team, hockey team, basketball or football team & when the team becomes number one our joyous fans almost riot with feelings of supremacy.” Lord it’s hard to be humble.

What about our churches? With God on our side, church folk love to let the world know that they are happier, more content, more fulfilled, more secure, more successful, more blessed & more at peace than other folk. Their attitude is, “it’s hard to be humble when you go to a church like mine. You say your pastor is on the radio? Well my pastor is on T.V [& by inference that makes him a better preacher.] We dress right, eat right, speak right, believe right, & do right a little bit more than most anybody we know.”

Lord it’s hard to be humble.

Often when some of these deliriously happy church folk get disgruntled, & maybe they have an offended/hurt pastor leading them, they leave the happy church where they were once so joyous & start a new even happier church. And don’t underestimate these people. Before you can say-cat in a hat- they’ll have a beautiful new building built as a monument to the proposition that they were right in making their move.

I don’t mean to be judgmental because sometimes its best when people part ways. Even Paul & Barnabas split up because they couldn’t agree about Mark. However sometimes I think these churches should have on their marquee; --“Church of the disgruntled brethren.”

What’s amazing about all of this is that we church folk convince the outsider that we do actually have it together. We convince them so well that they’re afraid to visit. People who aren’t part of the church drive by & see the huge parking lot stretched out like a free-way & think, “You know, I might not mind going there, but when I look at those steps & think about walking through those big doors, & then I think of all the happy people in there who’ve got it all together, it intimidates me. And besides, I never could sing very well anyway. Plus, I don’t think I could pass the dress code.”[Just in case you’re wondering, there isn’t any—that I know of.]

Some outsiders may flip that attitude & they say, “I’ve read about all the scandals these religious folk have had & I know of some divorces that have taken place among them & I’ve seen their kids fighting at school, & to tell you the truth I feel superior to these hypocrites. These church folk aren’t any better than anyone else; at least I don’t make a big profession.” There thought is; “Lord they ought to be humble; they’re so imperfect in every way.”

Many things the critics of the church say are true. To my knowledge Christians aren’t prettier, happier, wealthier, stronger, smarter, & more physically fit than others. Left on our own, we’re tempted & grapple with our imperfections; we struggle with the same sins, sorrows, & shortcomings as do non-churched people. Just having our name on a church roster doesn’t cause us to sprout wings & start walking on water & go around with a “glory-knot” on the back of our head [ladies hair do] & with a hymn on our lips all the time.

The biggest difference between those in the church & out of it is the fact that we by the Holy Spirit’s power have been graciously brought to Jesus Christ & saved. We, who once were lost, now have been found. None of this makes us better than anyone it just means we’ve responded by faith to the same call others have heard who didn’t respond. We by faith now have a heaven-sent substitute, our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Someone may say, “You Christians aren’t that good,” & they’d be right, but Jesus is “That-Good.”

PRIDE IS AT THE ROOT OF ALL CONFLICT


I repeat -pride is at the root; pride is the cause of almost all conflict. Proverbs 13:10 says;

Only by pride comes contention.


If you’re having conflict in your marriage, or family it’s being caused by pride. The same goes for the church. Pride won’t let things go. Pride won’t forgive. Pride keeps score. Pride puts pressure on people. Parental pride can force a boy to play football when doesn’t even like the game.

Proverbs 28:25 says;

He that is of a proud heart stirs up strife……

Pride is arrogant & obnoxious. Pride will cause you to be rude. When I counsel young people about marriage one of the things I suggest is, watch how the object of your affection treats people in public. Watch how they treat servers in restaurants or people who help them at airports. If they treat others badly you can mark it down they have a spirit of pride & that’s exactly how they’ll treat you after marriage. Rude people are being driven by pride. Pride makes us judgmental. Pride points out everyone else’s errors but isn’t it strange how hard it is for us to see ourselves?

Rick Warren tells the story of a grade school principle that made a royally big mistake. He got on the speaker & said to the entire school—“I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” He became the most popular principle in the history of the school. The kids all said, “I wish I had a dad like that.” And there were probably lots of women who also wished they had a husband like that. Lord it’s so hard to be humble.

GETTING OFF THE ‘PRIDE HIGH-HORSE’ IS THE SECRET OF RECONCILIATION

Swallow your pride & be willing to say- “I was wrong.” Pride prevents personal growth. The moment your head puffs up you stop growing. I stop growing.

Proverbs 11:2 says;

Pride leads to disgrace but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 10:17 says;

Anyone willing to be corrected is on the pathway to life, but anyone refusing has lost his chance.

Have you ever known someone that wouldn’t get help in parenting, in their marriage, in their taxes, with an addiction or anything else? Really now, that’s nothing but pride.

When I break a bone I’m going to a bone expert. I believe in divine healing but if I don’t have the faith to get a healing I’m not going to lay around & die, neither will I allow anyone I care about to do so. That’s nothing but stubborn, obstinate, bull-headed PRIDE.

It’s prideful self-absorption that brings so much stress & tension into our lives. We sit around thinking about ourselves so much, no wonder we’re miserable.

When I was pastoring my first church I was always miserable, wondering what the people really thought of me. One day I read something that turned my life around. It said, “Don’t worry about what people think of you. If you knew how seldom they did you’d be shocked.”

Proverbs 25:29 says;

The fear of man is a trap.


Everything in our culture says “it’s all about you. You’re the best. You deserve it. You’re the greatest. Have it your way. Focus on your image."

I’ve shared with you that Juda & I watch the T.V show American Idol now & then. We’ve noticed that each year the contestants [not all of them] get more & more unteachable & won’t take counsel from the judges. It’s not that I think the judges are always right, but they’re obviously there for some reason.

Certainly it’s good for a youngster to have self confidence & be able to think for themselves. But it makes me uneasy for anyone who won’t take advice at anytime about anything. I guess it’s because I’ve seen so many lives ruined that way.

I used to think a person can do anything they want to if they work hard enough at it. I no longer say that. Even with my Global Positioning, I can still get hopelessly lost. Almost every time I travel I get humbled. Even with a map & GP I can still get lost, consequently I’m never going to be a pilot. I seem to have this horrible sense of direction. [Sometimes.]

Everybody needs something in their life that they’re a total failure at. It keeps us humble. As for me there are only a few things I’m any good at. Another one of my pet peeves is Golf. The holes are too small & the equipment is wholly inadequate for the job. There’s plenty of frustration in life without adding Golf. There are lots of things you & I are never going to be because we don’t have the innate talent. The Beatles had some good advice, “Let it be.”

I fight pride every day in any manifestations that I see cropping up in my life. My wife helps me in the areas I can’t see. Along the way I’ve also had a few others to help me? Don’t you love it when that happens? In truth, other people can’t humble us, we must humble ourselves. Others can humiliate us but we must humble ourselves.

Don’t ever ask God to humble you. Bend your knee & bow your head & pray, “Oh Lord, I humble myself before you. I humble myself before you. Lord, help me get my stubborn pride out of the way so I can continue to grow & be a blessing to others.”

Here’s another tip from a man with a lot of scars, - don’t pray things like “Lord, if I’ve sinned or done anything wrong….” Trust me; you don’t have to say “if.” If you can’t think of anything to confess get out your bible & start reading & you’ll eventually hit it! The Bible judges the thoughts & intent of the heart.

Pride is based on a false image of yourself. Humility is based on a true & realistic factor. There is a good kind of pride, a pride that will move us toward excellence, never perfection. Good pride is rejoicing in what God is doing in & through you. Good pride won’t let you go to the Mall with your hair looking like last years birds nest, or shine one shoe & leave the other unshined.

As we’ve said, bad pride is selfish & stubborn, holds on to grudges & won’t admit when we’re wrong. This kind of prideful life brings no glory to God.

GOD HATES PRIDE

The Bible says;

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

If you & I are proud we’ve got God & the Devil both against us. Pride got the Devil kicked out of heaven.

Humility has gotten a bad-rap in our generation. I mean, when we think of humility we often think of allowing ourselves to be used as doormats. But that’s not Bible humility. Truly humble people aren’t people who’re always putting themselves down. Humble people are just people who have been empowered by God to make the needs of others the priority in their lives.

Humble people don’t have inferiority complexes. They are secure in who God made them. In fact humility is a mark of an emotionally mature person. We can think of it this way; humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s simply thinking about yourself less.

Humility isn’t just something a person has; it’s something a person does. Remember Forrest Gump’s words-“Momma always said, stupid is as stupid does.” Likewise, humble is-as humble does.

At Ronald Reagan’s funeral, the elder President Bush told a very interesting little story about Mr. Reagan when he was in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound he received during the assassination attempt in 1981.

Just days after the surgery that repaired his life-threatening injuries, his aides discovered him on his hands & knees in his hospital room, wiping water from the floor. Bush said of Reagan, “He did this because he was worried that his nurse would get in trouble.” Bush said, “I knew him well enough to know he never thought he’d be seen doing that.”

The last words & deeds of a person before they die take on larger than life proportions. We’ll bend down to listen to the final fleeting words that fall from the lips of a loved one, memorializing those last words or actions.

The night before Jesus was taken into custody & the final chapter of His Passion began, He could have done many things. He could have had a final teaching session, impressing on His disciples again the necessity of remaining faithful to the mandate of getting the gospel to all nations.

But in those final moments, instead of words, Jesus chose an act. Obviously He felt this was the most important thing He could do with those precious moments. And what did He do? He wrapped a towel around Himself, knelt & washed the feet of His band of rough-hewn disciples.

He was saying through that act, that the disciples must understand theirs was a mission of humility & serving & without that, in the final analysis there would be no completion of His earthly mission.

Pride, self-involvement, ego & elitism won’t accomplish His work but the attitude & action of loving & serving will.

Listen to these words about our blessed Lord Jesus;

Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, & took upon Himself the form of a servant, & was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man he humbled Himself & became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God hath highly exalted Him, & given Him a name which is above every name.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven & things in earth & things under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
–Philippians 2:6-11

If you & I as Christians do or say things that are misunderstood by some to sound like we’re maybe a little too excited, it’s just that we’re not ashamed or embarrassed by what happened to our Savior in the simple stable or at the shameful crucifixion on Golgotha’s chalky brow.

We praise our heavenly Father who was able to send His Son down to earth having cattle for his first companions & thieves for His last, & wash us from our sins.

Lord, it’s hard to be humble-when we have a savior who's perfect in every way.


Blessings,

John

Friday, January 30, 2015

Top Ten Countries Reading Blog In 2014


United States

Russia

France

Ukraine

Germany

United Kingdom

Canada

China

Indonesia

Malaysia

Most Read Blogs Of 2014

By John Stallings

1. Is anyone born gay? 3/14

2. When we all get to heaven 4/14

3. Dottie Rambo and me 11/14

4. Holy bounce-ology 11/14

5. Putting the world’s most influential evangelist to the bible test 11/14

6. The man who kissed the door of heaven and went to hell
10/14

7. A woman named somebody 10/14

8. Serious salvation 8/14

9. You might be a Pharisee if…6/14

10. Talkers, dreamers, dabblers, wishers and doers 1/14

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

REST

By John Stallings

Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Heb.4:1

What comes to mind when you think of rest?

The weekend? A day at the beach? Sleeping late in the morning? Retirement? Some would see these things as boring while others would see them as heavenly.If you’ve attended a funeral lately, I’m sure you heard the word rest used a lot. If you’ve walked through a grave yard recently you’ll know the words “Rest in Peace--RIP” are on almost every tombstone.The use of the word rest associated with death means that the person’s labors have come to an end. The troubles of the world and the illnesses that may have caused the deceased persons death are now over. The stillness of death gives the impression of rest.

A SPIRITUAL REST

The writer of Hebrews, in chapter four introduces a different kind of rest, a spiritual rest. The Bible depicts the life & experience of a Christian as a journey or pilgrimage wherein we’re called upon to leave a world system & come under the headship of Jesus Christ. As we follow Christ we come more & more into a rest which He provides for us.

One might easily conclude that the Bible is all about work and no play, because it speaks negatively about sloth and idleness and positively about labor and work. Yet Jesus spoke often about the need to rest.

Indeed when His disciples returned from ministry he encouraged them to come aside to a deserted place and rest awhile.Some folk are never at rest because they’re always bothered by something. The only way we’ll ever truly experience the life God has for us is to enter into His Rest.I know whereof I speak because I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit, not in total chaos & tumult, but neither in the true perfect resting place of God’s love & mercy.

In a day of labor-saving technology it seems we’re more stressed than ever. We’d do well to remember that we can only wind life so tight, and then it breaks.

ZONE OF REST

What I’ve learned & am learning is that the desired place God wants us to live & where we’ll be most fruitful is a zone called His Rest.There are three influences that exert pressure on us; the world, the flesh & the devil. Each of these influences is seeking to do one thing; to pull us out of God’s Rest. If you are doing kingdom work & contending for kingdom principles, the enemy is trying to get at you at every turn.God’s rest is a place where an individual is established in Christ & does not run from philosophy to philosophy. God’s rest is a place of quietness, peace, stillness, & freedom from guilt, where we rest from whatever seeks to disturb us or cause us to worry. It’s a cessation from endless legalistic activity & relaxing in God. It is to be settled & secure. It is having absolute faith & trust that God will supply all our needs. It’s knowing we can lean & rely on God for support no matter what may come.

Hebrews chapter four actually opens with a warning focused on this rest.—

Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

It’s important to note the rest spoken of here is different than other kinds of rests in scripture. It’s called-“The rest that remains.” This rest isn’t the Sabbath day or the seventh day rest, a pattern of God’s rest on the seventh day after creation.

Hebrews 4:11 tells us to,--Labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.It sounds like an oxymoron, to speak of “laboring to enter God’s rest,” but it isn’t.

Jesus said …Come unto me all ye that labor & are heavy laden & I will give you rest.” Then He says, Take my yoke upon you & learn of me for I am meek & lowly of heart & you shall find rest unto your souls.

REST ISN’T ACHIEVED BY LEAVING A SET OF BAD CIRCUMSTANCES.

Some people think they can find rest & peace by relocating. They will leave a job, a marriage, a
city or even a country thinking if they can go somewhere else they’ll find happiness & rest. This of course is just an illusion.Human beings are restless by nature.

Have you ever seen people walking down a Mall talking on their cell-phone? They’re one place but they want to be somewhere else. We go out, and then we can’t wait to get home. When we get home we can’t wait to leave to be somewhere else.We take vacations to rest but unless we have a resting heart & spirit a vacation won’t work. We’ve all had the experience of coming home from an extended get-away & as soon as our hand touches the door-knob the old pressure is still there. We took it with us & brought it back.

Israel thought if they could throw off slavery they would be happy but it wasn’t long until they started grumbling & wanting to go back to Egyptian bondage rather than press into the Promised Land, or rest God had for them.

This would be a good place to remind ourselves of a group of powerful & prominent leaders in the Bible. Because they are so prominent in Israel’s history without question you’ll be familiar with their names; Shamma, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi & Guel. These names are household words in every Christian home in America, right? Nope! Hardly. Only if we add the two last names to the list, Joshua & Caleb, will it make sense.

These are the names of the twelve men sent out by Moses to survey the land of Promise. Isn’t it amazing that of these twelve princes, each the head of his own tribe governing thousands of men, the names of ten are lost in obscurity in a list tucked away in the book of numbers? Only two of the twelve are household names, immortalizations of greatness & fame.Ten leaders were a dismal failure; dragging a whole generation down with them, but two, Joshua, & Caleb were paragons of victory & success. What made the difference? The ten spies failed to believe God would do what he said he’d do. They didn’t mix faith in God with their so-called knowledge so they never entered into God’s best, or God’s rest.

God had this & other stories recorded for our edification & as examples to us. The same rest He urged His people to press into & possess is still available to us but we can only enter into it by faith.

A rest is available to us & we should make every effort to enter into that rest. Ancient Israel failed to do so & God is showing us why & how we might avoid making the same mistake they did. If we don’t press into God’s rest, we’ll do essentially what Israel did & wander around rootless, never experiencing God’s best for our lives.

HERE ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF GOD”S REST:

1. When we are residing in God’s rest, we are seeing things from His perspective, not ours.

We began to see our problems as small because God is with us. When we are resting with God we know that anything is possible because we have “Big time back-up.”When we are in God’s rest we won’t make decisions based on fear. We won’t worry & fret because we’re seeing things differently now. Resting in God is surrender where we don’t try to do things on our own without Him.

2. When we are in God’s rest we hear from Him more often.

Recently we were praying about an issue, not a life altering one but nonetheless important. You know how it can be; you just keep circling the same mountain never seeming to hit on a satisfying answer. During a week-end out of town, we visited with relatives and minister friends and as we were relaxing, not really trying to find an answer to our problem, the answered snapped into focus.

Over and over again life has taught me that the clarity of thinking necessary to find the proper course of action comes only after we’ve had the chance to rest and be renewed. When you and I are working from a place of exhaustion we can get trapped into short-sightedness when God is able to shower us with wisdom if we’ll only take the time to pull away, put our conundrum on the back burner and give Him an opportunity to speak to us.

When we’re having panic attacks it’s harder for God to reach us. God wants to talk to us but we must be listening to Him. The world around us provides static that blocks God out unless we intentionally tune Him in & keep Him at the forefront of our minds. When we are resting in God we give Him the opportunity to do things we’d never be able to do on our own.When we rest in the power of God, we start to see His power actualized in our lives.

CERTAIN PEOPLE

One of my favorite passages on rest & peace is in Acts 12:1-15. Listen to it;

Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church. Did you get that; he vexed certain of the church?

The devil doesn’t vex or bother everyone in the church; at least he doesn’t bother them all to the same extent. If Satan sees us as a threat he will do all he can to vex us. If we’ve made a deep commitment to God, there’s a bulls-eye on our back.

And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.—vr.2And because he saw it pleased the Jews he proceeded further to take Peter also. [Then were the days of the unleaven bread.]Vr. 3And when he had apprehended him he put him in prison & delivered him to four quarter ions of soldiers, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Vr.4And Peter therefore was kept in prison but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers bound with two chains & the keepers before the door kept the prison.

This has to be one of the Bible’s most prefect pictures of rest. James had been killed by a sword & now Peter has been arrested & awaits the same fate. But is he screaming & crying? No! Is he telling God how He’s let him down? No! Peter is sleeping. Can you imagine that? Would you & I be sleeping in a circumstance like that? I can’t speak for you but in my case I strongly doubt it. But Peter is resting in the hands of God. We could find no greater example of God’s rest than this.Then because Peter’s trust was in God & the people of God were praying for him, he was miraculously delivered by an angel. Here’s one of the most restful thoughts I’ve ever embraced;

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8…to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

That being true, what’s the worst thing that could happen to us? If we die we’re immediately ushered into Christ’s presence. I’m sure that promise is what gave Peter such peace that night in prison. So, if we’re looking at death as the worst calamity that could befall us, all death could do is take us away from the asphalt & concrete streets we trod & upgrade us to the golden streets of Glory.

In 1967 I had my first experience in flying over an ocean. I’d flown domestically many times since childhood but this time I was going with a group of ministers to visit several foreign countries, including Israel.I boarded a plane in Orlando, headed for New York. I was so green at flying that when the plane started banking to land in New York, I leaned back the opposite way as if that would somehow balance the plane.

But the hardest thing for me was when the plane headed out over the Atlantic Ocean. Rational thought told me that hitting the water it would be the same as hitting solid ground but my fears were telling me it was much more dangerous to fly over that big ocean. We flew overnight from New York to Amsterdam Holland. I would drift off to sleep for a while then I’d wake with a start & sit there thinking how unnatural it was for a big jet with hundreds of people aboard to be up in the air over the ocean. I’d repeat this pattern every hour on the hour. I had an awful time trying to keep that plane flying that night. The surprising part is - I knew the equation of speed and lift equaling flight. But the devil was attacking me with fear trying to make me believe that the success of the flight was all on my back, which of course is silly. The thing that finally enabled me to relax & come to a place of peace was telling myself that God could take care of me just as well flying over water as over mountains or flat land.

Then I acknowledged that the risk of flying was acceptable when I thought of where that big Jet was taking me. I was actually going to Europe. Then I was going to follow Paul’s footsteps in Italy & Greece, & finally I was going to walk in Jesus’ footsteps in The Holy Land. I was going to visit the Coliseum in Rome where the Christians were fed to the Lions. That to me was far better than refusing to risk flying the ocean & staying home under the bed.I also had to finally place my trust in the Plane & the pilots & trust that the jet engines would keep running until we found a place to land.

If you ever hear that I was on a plane that crashed, don't feel bad for me. Really!  Long ago I decided that I wasn't going to live a life ruled by fear.I often ask myself what my life would have been like had I refused to fly.Almost certainly I would never have visited the many beautiful lands and had the privilege to meet and minister to so many. I've just had to relax believing everything would work out & I’d not only be safe but enriched for the experience.

It’s the same for us as Christians. We believe Christ died & rose again & He is able to bring us safely into God’s rest & entering that rest is worth all the sacrifices we might make on the journey.

HUCKABEE

T.V personality and recent Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee in a recent book tells his experience as he came up through the ranks in Arkansas politics, finally becoming one of the very few Republicans to be elected to the Governors office in that state.When he was first elected Lieutenant Governor, he found his office nailed shut from the inside. Most of the people who held office in the state were “yellow-dog Democrats,” meaning they’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for a Republican.

Huckabee, being a committed Christian knew if he tried to play the game his detractors were playing he’d lose in the end so he stuck to his Christian principles. He told his staff to do just the opposite of what his enemies were doing. Though he had to occupy a small cubby-hole office for 59 days, [all the furniture had been removed from his office anyway] he just went about his work in a relaxed manner never seeking to retaliate in any way.Word got out about how he was being treated & a writer from The Wall Street Journal was sent down to see what was happening. In the end, Huckabee became one of the most popular & successful politicians in Arkansas & ended up serving two terms as Governor.

How did Huckabee accomplish this? Not by resorting to the street tactics of his enemies but by resting & believing that he’d be rewarded if he let God fight his battles.

DON'T YANK ON A KNOT

Here’s a simple little illustration. When you get a knot in a shoelace or any rope or string, the first thing you have to do is to not make the knot worse by yanking or pulling on it. If you do that the knot just becomes tighter. When a child comes to a parent with a knot in his shoelace, the first challenge is to get the child to be still while you are untangling the knot.One of the lessons God is trying to teach us is to cease from struggling & impatiently trying to work things out using our own strength & wisdom.

In Psalm 46:10 God instructs us….be still and know that I am God.

That means stop the panicky thoughts & efforts & just rest in God’s ability to untangle all our “knots.”If you & I can’t rest in God & trust Him with our lives as well as our eternal souls, we’ll never enter His rest. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way;

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from His.

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:9-11.


Every Blessing,


John

Friday, January 16, 2015

Assumicide, Relationship Killer

By John Stallings


“Never assume anything.”

We’ve all heard that sage piece of advice.

Let’s look at some definitions of the word assume;

To draw conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence. To take for granted, without proof; to suppose as a fact, to take arbitrarily or tentatively; the act of anticipating something before hand - before the proper time & natural order.

“Jumping to conclusions” & “prejudging”-to me are as good as any definition.

Now, what does the word ASSUMICIDE mean? “Assumicide is when we make false assumptions about others, portraying them in the worst possible light, with the end being damage to if not destruction of a relationship.” "When your assumptions lead to dire consequences that could lead to your potential demise, you commit assumicide."

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made hasty assumptions in my marriage, my parenting & even in my ministry. However I can tell you almost exactly how many times it’s been done to me. I’m quite good at remembering such things. Or should I say, I’m quite bad about it. I keep track of those things. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to assume someone has it in for me.

I was talking to a minister friend one time [a very successful pastor of a large church.] I drew all my deepest thinking together with perhaps as good a verbal flourish as I’ve ever had & said, -“You know, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild & think you hear something in a person’s voice or actions telling you they’re mad at you when nothing of the sort is really true.” My friends answer? -“Yes John, but what if it’s true & they really are mad at you?” I think my friends have been part of my problem. Kidding!

Assumptions. Everyone knows that sooner or later, friends we assumed would be ours for life will break their word, marriages end in divorce, children move away & never call us, the company lays us off, doctors can’t cure us, our investments disappear, our dreams are shattered, the best-layed plans go astray, other Christians disappoint us, & very often we disappoint ourselves. Our assumptions are proven wrong time & again & if sooner or later we don’t come to grips with this -we’re doomed to be unhappier tomorrow than we are today.

Dr. Jerome Frank at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore talks about Our assumptive world. His thought is that we all make certain assumptions about life. Deep down we believe that if we do certain things, others will treat us in a certain way. We assume that we have earned certain things out of life. If those assumptions aren’t met, we’re disappointed. There’s a strong correlation between good mental health & having assumptions that match reality. And there’s a high correlation between misplaced assumptions & a variety of emotional problems, including depression.

Put simply, we are disillusioned when things don’t go the way we assumed they were going to go. Wrong assumptions lead to disappointment & disappointment leads to despair. Are you still with me? Is a little light being punched in as to why we should—“Never assume anything?”

RISKY ASSUMPTIONS

Have you ever seen a lady with a protruding stomach & blurted out, “oh, when’s your baby due,” & learned too late that she wasn’t expecting? I’ve done it several times in my life & I pray merciful God will never let me do it again.

Several years ago we saw a young lady whom we hadn’t seen in over two years. I should have realized that a baby isn’t the lone reason for a woman to have a bump in her mid-section, but nooooo. I forged ahead & “went off the proverbial cliff,” asking about due dates while Juda & the rest of the folk in the group stood in slack-jawed amazement.

The young woman’s ever reddening face & the throat clearing that seized the others present finally told me what I’d done. Then I added insult to injury by trying to back-peddle & explain my way out of it. This made it worse & finally my wife whispered, “quit digging, it’s getting worse & worse.” I survived but as I said, I pray I’ll never make that assumption again, especially when a young woman’s involved. It’s dangerous & ill-advised, you can take it from me.

There’s a true story from France. A woman was dining alone. She ordered some soup & while waiting for it to arrive she went to the restroom. When she came back she was horrified to find a man sitting in her seat & eating her soup. She didn’t know how to respond so she sat across from the man at the table & just stared daggers at him. He just stared back & kept eating. After he finished he ordered a main meal & asked for two plates. When it arrived he had one plate & gave the other one to the woman. They ate in confused silence. The woman then ordered coffee & went to the restroom again. When she came back, the man was gone….& so was her purse. She screamed out, “thief, thief.” Several people chased the man down the street & tackled him. They dragged him back to the restaurant & just as they did, the woman saw a table at the restaurant with no one sitting at it. It had a bowl of cold soup & you guessed it, there was her purse. It turned out that when she first came back from the restroom, she sat down at the wrong table.

Assumptions are dangerous.

Assumptions have a way of making the part of the horse that goes over the fence last out of you, me & everyone. Assumptions are the termites of relationships, & they erode the very fabric of trust & good will in a relationship. We should see our assumptions as our window to the world. If we scrub them off occasionally, it’s surprising how much more light will come in.

Assumptions. We make them all the time. Assumptions that cause us to judge & most of all misjudge people.

They didn’t call back so they must not want to talk to me.
The church is so unfriendly.
I think she’s trying to ignore me.
He’s such a hypocrite.
I don’t like him & I don’t know why, I just don’t like him.
I’ll bet they’re sleeping together.
They don’t hire people like me.
She’s so full of herself.
Someday he’ll find himself, & he’ll certainly be disappointed.



IT SEEMS WE’RE HARD-WIRED TO ASSUME SOME THINGS

When we’re watching a movie, I’ll try to figure out the plot of the movie & guess where it’s going & what’s going to happen to get there. This of course annoys my wife. As much as I love to try to figure it out, the best movies are the ones where I’m totally wrong.

In writing this blog, I pray for guidance in the topics I write about. I always ask myself, “Do people need this information? Will this information help them?” Having been a pastor/evangelist for many years, I know people are interested in messages that will help them in their daily lives. Many times we can assume people have knowledge they don’t possess. I don’t know where I heard it but I like this little truism; “Never underestimate a congregation’s intelligence, but never overestimate their knowledge.” A pastor makes a false assumption if he preaches as if everyone in the congregation is a professing believer.

SAUL’S ASSUMPTIONS IN THE ANOINTING OF DAVID.

Saul was king of Israel for many years. You will remember that there was a time when Saul was waiting for Samuel to come to offer a sacrifice. When Samuel didn’t show up to offer his priestly duties, Saul took matters into his own hands & offered a sacrifice unto God.

Saul was unqualified to do so, & from that moment the kingdom was pronounced to be taken from him.

One thing I think every spiritual leader should be aware of is a principle we get from Baseball. If some of the ministers we’ve seen fall from grace in the last 25 years had understood this principle, I can’t help but think things would have been different. Here’s the principle; when a player, especially a pitcher, gets wobbly, the coach will go out to have a talk with him. If the player can convince the coach that he’s o.k., the coach will leave him in the game. But at that moment the coach will put his next best pitchers in the bull-pin & start warming them up. All the while the wobbly pitcher is proceeding; he hears the “warm-up” pitchers in the bull-pin. God wants to see us all succeed in our work for Him but we should always be keenly aware that if we fall or fail to do what he has called us to do; He’ll find someone else to fill our place.

Think back to the late 1980s. I won’t call names but you probably remember the big names in evangelism who “bit-the-dust” during a relatively short period of time. I must admit it had me beyond concerned. But look what happened. God raised up others who’d been “warming up” working faithfully & hitherto basically “second-stringers” who God quickly pressed into service.

In hearing God’s desire for the next king, Samuel heard he would be-a man after God’s own heart. He trusts the next man will be a tremendous step-up for the people. When you know God’s desired man is just around the corner & will soon be arriving, your sense of anticipation builds & abounds. Samuel probably starts to wonder what this new man is all about & how he’ll be different from Saul. I suspect that his mind would begin to fill in a few blanks & make a few assumptions of what this new king would look like.

In 1 Samuel 16 we find the story of Samuel being told by God to go to Jesse’s house & the next king of Israel would one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel assumes King Saul would find out & be angry. He assumes Saul will try to kill him. Samuel assumes that since Saul was tall, the next king would be tall too. However God doesn’t have a cut & dried way of doing things. Samuel also assumed that the “oldest son” rule would apply in this case so he feels Eliab, who was the oldest was the safest choice. Even though Samuel had walked with God for many years, on this occasion he seems to be as much in the dark as David was.

Samuel got the word from God that none of Jesse’s sons he’d seen so far is the one God wants him to anoint to be the next king. He asked Jesse if he had any other sons. Jesse said that he did have one more son but he was out keeping the sheep. When David was brought in sure enough he wasn’t very tall but he was a handsome dude. God spoke to Samuel letting him know this was the man & Samuel immediately anointed him to be the future king of Israel.

Isn’t it amazing how God so often chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise? Another amazing thing to me is how God can use the small moments of life, moments you & I may not even remember, to totally change the course of our lives.

I have three daughters who have families of their own, which makes me a grandpa. Isn’t that a brilliant deduction on my part? The other day I was talking on the phone to my eldest daughter & as an aside, she started telling me some ways I had been an inspiration to her as she grew up. I can’t even recall doing & saying many of the things she remembers that inspired her. I’m sure she was correct because the things she mentioned sounded a lot like me. My point is, if I were to be asked what I felt were my strongest points as a parent, I would no doubt come up with totally different things than my daughters remember.

Apparently I was inspiring in ways I never knew. To me they were such small things & small moments; I would never have placed them high on the list of my “parenting skills.” It will be the same for all of us. We just have to work as hard as we can doing what we feel is the right thing & leave all the rest to God. Such a moment was this moment in Samuel's life, when he poured the anointing oil over little David’s head. This fellow would someday be king over Israel in a reign that lasted 40 years.

God surprises us. Surprises are big with our God. Many times, God’s Will surprises us. He’s the God of interruptions & He’s the God of the unexpected. He looks at the heart while the rest of us are busy looking at outward appearances. He looks at motivations. If we assume anything, we should just assume that if hang around on this planet very long, God is going to surprise us.

WE CAN AVOID ASSUMICIDE

I had to smile a while back when I filled in for a dear pastor friend of mine who was called away unexpectedly. Over the years we’ve spoken at this church many times & the good folk know us well. As soon as one of the church ushers saw me come in, I heard him speak to another usher to be sure & get Brother Stallings a bottle of water & place it near the pulpit. Since we’d arrived a little early I stood around & talked with the brethren, telling them how much I appreciated their faithfulness to do things that might seem unimportant but in reality are very important.

One of the men said something to the effect that drinking water is one of the best things we can do for our health & we had a nearly fifteen minute conversation about drinking water.

I got to thinking about this & how these men assumed I was a person who drinks lots of water. The truth is, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not a big consumer of water though I realize how good it is for us. As a rule I don’t drink nearly enough water. I don’t even like the taste [or lack of taste] of water. I do like water when it’s turned into tea or lemon aide, but that’s just me.

As I thought about it, I realized that the only time these men saw me was in church, & I use water when I speak or sing to combat the pesky “dry mouth.” I guess that must be for us “dry preachers.”

Now in this case, the case of drinking water, I guess I came off looking like a wise man for drinking lots of water. These men had assumed that I was a water drinker. But is that really true? Not hardly.

Some people who only see me at church might assume that I always wear a coat & tie, but those who see me on a day-to-day basis know that’s not the case. I hate ties. Friend we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions, make quick judgments & commit ASSUMICIDE when we don’t know all the facts.

The Jews during Jesus’ lifetime did just that in regards to Him. They were ready to arrest & condemn him in his early ministry. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who’d come to Him by night was a voice of reason in the council. He asked the august group of scholars-“Does our law judge a man before it hears him & knows what he’s doing? [John 7:51.]

How many married people commit assumicide every day & end their unions assuming things that aren’t true?

How many churches commit assumicide & are torn asunder because someone assumed they knew all there was to know about a situation?

A woman known for her incessant gossiping told the folks at church that she’d seen brother so-and-sos truck at sister so-and- sos house a lot lately & this was unequivocal proof that an affair was going on. The accused man heard about it so the next night he sneaked his truck in front of her house & left it there all night long.

How many former Christians are no longer walking with the Lord because they became bitter at something God “allowed to happen” & they committed spiritual assumicide over it?

Let us who name the name of Christ, not be too quick to judge & condemn others without knowing all the facts.

Here are a few more helpful hints;

Don't entertain 3rd party nonsense--Its true name is g-o-s-s-i-p!!
Don't react to what you think--react to what you k-n-o-w!!
Don't let issues linger. If you really want clarification-go directly to the person & ask!!

THE B-ATTITUDES

Jesus' main teaching thrust seems to be about shooting down many of our natural assumptions.

Look at The Sermon on the Mount. Everything we take for granted about success & power is turned on its head. Everything we assume about winners & losers is flip-flopped. When he speaks about Blessings, even if its about suffering He says ;

"Congratulations."

Congratulations to the restless,

Congratulations to the merciful rather than the powerful.

Congratulations to the pure in heart rather than the clever schemers.

Congratulations to the peacemakers instead of the fighters.

Jesus commends the unlikely ones & promises them mercy, comfort & the entire earth. You will be called the children of God & ultimately you'll see God.

Contrary to what this world assumes, when we suffer & think we can never get up again, we still have Him & we still have the Kingdom of God.


Congratulations, indeed.


Blessings,


John

Sunday, January 11, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

By John Stallings


For this cause I left you in Crete. Titus 1:5


Part of the hospital’s roof blew off.

 Power was lost. Snakes swarmed in the waters that flooded some hallways. We lost our generator within 24 hours. We could not get fuel. We had to “hand-bag ventilate” patients,”

Dr. Albert Barracas said,

"In the midst of this chaos, the hospital’s doctors worked around the clock, putting their patient’s health above their own."

Such heroic stories abound in the midst of the death, destruction & displacement of Hurricane Katrina, the storm which in 2005 landed a cruel blow to the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Katrina led many Americans to do some extraordinary things.Sadly because Katrina was turned into a political football, much of this heroism has been lost.

One thing for sure, the great city of Houston was the unsung hero, especially the homes that took in house guests. Among all those in Houston who sacrificed is Kirby Robinson who took in 27 unexpected house guests.

LEMONADE

There’s an old saying; “when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” These ordinary people made the best of a bad situation. They made lemonade.Many, many people have chosen to “take lemons & make lemonade.” Because they did the world is a much better & safer place to live. MADD was founded because Candy Lightner’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Polly Klass’s father Marc has made a huge impact on child abuse laws & Nancy Brinker has raised money & awareness for breast cancer victims in memory of her sister through the Susan B. Anthony Foundation.

There are still hundreds of men & women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan today who would rather be home with their families but instead are making lemonade, making the best of a bad situation, which by definition is what all wars are.

“Popular” actress Sally Field made a cheap, sassy remark about our war involvement at the Emmys which had to be “bleeped.” In essence she expostulated that if mothers ruled the world there’d be no more -----wars. First of all I doubt the truthfulness of that statement & secondly, she failed to mention that if we didn’t stand up to the terrorists, most women would be barefoot, pregnant,  illiterate & would all be wearing Muslim head gear.

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

TITUS IN CRETE

Right after the two Timothy’s there’s the little “post card” sized book called Titus. Though it only contains 46 verses it’s still a powerhouse because it’s chocked full of rich theology pertaining to salvation & Christian maturity.But Titus also contains an intriguing story about a young preacher caught on the horns of a dilemma. Paul is writing to Titus his young protégé’ whom he’s left on the island of Crete & as we read between the lines some interesting facts emerge.Crete is a small oblong island off the coast of Greece with a spine of rough- hewn mountains running right down the middle of it.

Today’s Crete is a picturesque island humming with commerce & would be a delightful stop on any Greek island tour, but evidently in Paul & Titus’ day it left much to be desired.Paul left young Titus on the island on one of their missionary trips & Titus has failed to develop any kind of traction so he wants to leave. That last statement was probably an understatement; Titus is begging to leave. His attitude has become--“anywhere but Crete.”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The problem is you can’t leave. You’re stuck. All the whining in the world isn’t going to change the facts.The only way you can catalogue Crete & make any sense of it is, “You’re going to have to make lemonade. You’re going to have to make the best of a bad situation.” A friend of mine humorously says his favorite scripture verse is, “Grin & bear it.” If that were really a verse, it would be tailor made for Crete.

These ancient Cretans must have been “hum-dingers.” If you mentioned the name Crete people would automatically think of dishonesty, overindulgence & laziness. (Titus 1:12)Paul offers to Titus his reasons for leaving him in Crete. You might call it Paul’s CRETIAN FORMULA.”Titus must stay in Crete because;

1. TITUS NEEDS CRETE!

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

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

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

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

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

2. CRETE NEEDED TITUS.

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

What if every Doctor said; “You know I’m tired of sick people. I’m sick of listening to people whine all day long. I want to be around healthy people from now on?” What then would sick people do?What if every teacher said; “I’m tired of being around uneducated & ignorant people. I want to spend the rest of my life around smart people?”What if our policemen & women got tired of keeping us safe & said, “I’m sick of dealing with the worst of humanity & fearing for my life at every traffic stop. I want to quit & spend the rest of my life around good, upstanding law-abiding folk?”What if our fire-fighters got tired of fires & left their jobs to go become farmers? If all these public servants said, “get me out of Crete” we’d all be in trouble.

What if Jesus had said; “Father, I’m tired of these human beings. They don’t like me, they don’t even know who I am & I’m definitely not appreciated. Even my home town of Nazareth ran me off. I don’t think this whole thing is working. Please let me come back to heaven, this is just too hard?” Jesus even said that He could have done that but aren’t we glad He stayed with His mission until all of man’s sin debt was paid? Jesus made the best of not only a bad situation but a situation that defies description because He was constrained by love to finish His task.Paul told Titus in chapter two verse 14;

---Who gave Himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, & purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.

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

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

3. GOD NEEDS YOU IN CRETE.

God uses people to reach people. God needs Titus to be in Crete for a witness of His love. In spite of their bad reputation, in spite of their seeming unlovely ness, God still loves them & wants to redeem them & that’s why He needs Titus to be there.If there were ever a place you’d think would be beyond God’s love it would be Crete. But Titus’ presence there proves Crete mattered to God. How could God love Crete?It’s not that Cretans are lovable; it’s because God is love.God loved Crete not because of what they were but what He is.His love is not dependent on their character but His character.

In Titus 1:5 Paul tells Titus to “set in order” things that were wanting. A medical term is used here; like a doctor setting a bone. He’s telling Titus to put relationships back together among the Cretans. We don’t think of setting a bone as healing but in truth it’s a very vital part of the healing process.

A lot of people are sick because they’re “out of joint” in their relationships & wont properly heal until they’re back in place like a doctor sets a bone in place.In Ephesians 6:18 Paul tells the church there;Praying always with all prayer & supplication in the Spirit & watching thereunto with all PERSEVERANCE & supplication….The word perseverance means to persist or endure in spite of elements arrayed against you. From its Latin roots the word literally means “through severity.”

In an age of instant oatmeal & microwave popcorn we’re not too big on perseverance. Before we can persevere we need to be in severe circumstances.Perseverance was what Paul was asking of Titus in Crete. But Paul wasn’t asking Titus to do anything he didn’t do & with regularity.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 11:24—Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night & a day I have been in the deep; journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness & painfulness in watchings often, in hunger & thirst in fastings often in cold & nakedness. Beside those things that are without that, which cometh upon me daily, -- the care of all the churches.

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

Paul said,--For our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding & eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things that are not seen….2 Cor. 4:17-18

Life is often rough & if you are blessed to sails its seas for long you’ll hit a storm or two. Don’t jump ship or ask God to discharge you. Maybe you’re living in Crete or working in Crete. Maybe your marriage seems like Crete to you.For Titus to be successful in Crete he was going have to trust in God. Trusting will help us in Crete like nothing else.

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

Don’t pray for a better place, pray for strength to stay where you are & prevail. Don’t get into the spiritual fetal position. God is making you into the kind of person He wants you to be & when you’ve been tried you’ll come forth as pure gold.If you have to, take that old bitter lemon and make lemonade-but.....


STAY IN CRETE.


Blessings,


John


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed!

By John Stallings


Yes, that Humpty Dumpty. The Humpty Dumpty of Nursery Rhyme fame. He was pushed.

I believe he was pushed and I blame the parents. The parents of this young man knew full well he already had that somewhat odd last name, Dumpty. To offset this, do they give him a first name like, Johnny, or Billy or Steve or Michael? Noooo! They go and name him Humpty. Who names a kid Humpty? Now he’s Humpty Dumpty. We all know what happened to the “Boy named Sue.” He had to fight everywhere he went.

What on earth did these parents think would happen when the boy went to school with a name like that? What were they thinking? Didn’t they know how cruel kids can be? The first thing they’ll go for is a person’s moniker. No wonder Humpty sought solace on top of that big high wall. He had to have a little personal time to calm down and get the world off his back. But alas, bigoted and hateful people found out where Humpty was. They found Humpty one afternoon sitting on that wall and they pushed him. They pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall.

Now, in all candidness, I can’t prove that Humpty was pushed, but we can’t deny that there are people mean enough and violent enough to do just that. But this is only one possibility as to what happened to Humpty.

I want to take a fresh look at the nursery rhyme we’ve all known since we were kids.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


HUMPTY WAS SUCCESSFUL-ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Let’s look at this situation. What’s happening here? Although we don’t know much about Humpty, we know he was successful. He had risen to the top and found himself with time on his hands to sit and look back at all he’d accomplished. We know that the tell-tale sign that a man has been successful in the world of business is when they have the top office. If their office is on the top floor with a large window that overlooks the city…then they know they’ve arrived…they know they are truly successful in life.

Though everyone may not have a top office, there are others ways in our culture to measure success. A teacher will get a PHD and be recognized as the top teacher in the county. A man might reach a milestone in his business for selling the most of his company’s product annually. For others it might be an award given by superiors or peers.

If we’re being honest, most of us aspire to being like Humpty in this story at least in one respect. We want to be at the top and Humpty certainly was there. He could honestly say, “I have made it.” But as Humpty’s story suggests, the top is a very dangerous place to be.

But something happened. Something happened and Mr. Dumpty was unceremoniously dropped from the top and ended up at the bottom.

This happens a lot, doesn’t it? How many stories have you read of successful men and women who had risen to the pinnacle of their career…to the pinnacle of life itself only to have something to pull the rug right out from under their feet? Sometimes the person has no one to blame but themselves.

Just this week in our area there were two stories like that. One was the story of a venerable 68 year old hi-school football coach, [that 68 wasn’t a typo] a married man with five children who propositioned an undercover policewoman. The other one was a young policeman, highly decorated and respected, who was accused of fondling a woman outside a nightclub while off duty. According to the news report, the charges were serious enough that this young man will never be a law enforcement officer again.

And so it goes; people who made it to the apex of their professions only to come crashing down to the depths of misery and brokenness.

REASON FOR FALL A MYSTERY

We don’t actually know what caused Humpty to fall. Fixing blame for Humpty’s fall doesn’t fix Humpty. Too many of us spend time blaming all our problems on other people or circumstances. Maybe the wind blew Him off. Maybe he just lost his balance. But we can certainly speculate, especially when we have so many examples around us of men and women falling after making it to the top.

We look at men like Bernie Madoff, who bilked trusting people out of billions of dollars. Certainly at least one of his problems was greed. He makes “Wall Street’s” Gordon Gekko look like a Boy Scout. Is it bad decisions, or lack of any code of ethics or maybe a combination of all of these things? All these folk, including Mr. Dumpty were at one time sitting happily on top of his or her wall, enjoying life until something came along and knocked them from their perch and sent them crashing to the ground.

This wall Humpty fell off of was a high wall. It was probably narrow too. This leaves open the question; why would an egg, -that’s an EGG, be so foolish as to go up and sit on a high wall knowing how fragile his shell was, knowing how easily eggs break? Surely he didn’t think about the consequences.

Humpty should have stayed off that high wall. Maybe he just liked to tempt fate, who knows? There was plenty of soft white sand where he could have sat and been both comfortable and safe. There was soft hay and green grass where Humpty could have sat. It seems that Humpty was courting danger, playing Russian Roulette. We see that today don’t we?

Look at Tiger Woods. He’s a modern day Humpty Dumpty. He had it all and threw most of it away by being just plain dumb. How long did he think he’d get by with the lifestyle he was living? He lost his marriage and the best opinion of multitudes of people around the globe. I haven’t heard anything about his calling on the Lord for help so I suppose he’s looking to other resources to try to put it all back together. So far his performance on the golf course has been, for the most part, less than stellar.

I see people indulging in all sorts of evil not seeming to care about the harm it can bring to them and those who love them. Young people get with the wrong crowd in the wrong hangouts and go down the wrong roads.

Paul said, “Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess. 5:22

Humpty probably said the same things many others have said; “nothing bad will happen to me. I’m different. Other eggs may be stupid but not me. Other eggs may be unlucky but not me.”


HUMPTY CALLED FOR GOVERNMENT HELP

Mr. Dumpty wasn’t one to stay at the bottom. He enjoyed the top and wanted to be rehabilitated, repaired and restored to his previous position at the top of the wall. Obviously he believed that government was the answer to all the problems of the world. Consequently that mindset caused him to first reach out for some government program to help him get things put back together. He called for the king’s horses and the king’s men. Not only did they come running, they all came. I’ve often wondered what the horses were expected to do, because they didn’t have opposing thumbs and couldn’t really have much luck with things calling for dexterity. But of course, they did get the king’s men there so we can give them credit for that. Anyway the story is that all of them came which is commendable.

Surely the leaders of his day with their connections, power and prestige would be able to help Mr. Dumpty and get him back up on the wall where he belonged. They sent case workers galloping out to see if they could help. But alas all the governmental programs and projects in place to help people get back on their feet didn’t work. Mr. Dumpty was still in shambles at the bottom of the wall with no repair in sight. In the end, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again. He had fallen and couldn’t get up. The poem makes it clear that there was no fixing what was broken. The king’s horses and men failed- all of them. They couldn’t fix Humpty.

One of the things that have us all concerned is that the present leadership in the White House believes government to be the answer to everyone’s problems. I agree with Ronald Reagan, that “government is the problem.” Someone has rightly said; “a government that’s big enough to give you anything you want is also big enough to take away all you’ve got.” At present America is heading toward Socialism at breakneck speed and if we don’t get it stopped through prayer and at the ballot box our children and grandchildren will live under a dictatorship.

Imagine this; we’ve presently got things so backwards in this great country that the people are afraid of the government, especially on April 15th. This must be changed if we’re to survive as a republic.

MAN’S FALL IN THE GARDEN

God gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, dominion over all the earth. They were able to relate perfectly with God, to feel His nearness and communicate with Him. God sat our forbearers high on the wall with wisdom, power, knowledge and God-likeness. But something awful happened. It happened in Humpty’s story, and in Eden and also to all of us personally. In all three instances, we describe it as “a fall.”

Again, we don’t really know why Humpty went off that wall. Maybe the wall was slippery. Maybe he became distracted and tried to reach too far. In the poem the fall is a mystery but not in creation and not with us. Adam and Eve tried to reach higher than they were meant to reach. We can picture them on their tiptoes, reaching just beyond their grasp. God told them not to eat the fruit they were reaching for but the serpent told them it would be good. Eve of course ate first then gave the fruit to Adam and he ate.

Now we have the Fall-and the entry point of sin, failure and brokenness into creation. Now, we like Humpty find ourselves at the bottom of the wall, broken, shattered and fragmented. We lie there knowing that unless something drastic happens our fall will be fatal.

We’ve had our experiences with the king’s men too. Today they have names like Oprah, Sally, Montel and Doctor Phil. We call them psychotherapy, hypnosis or tarot cards. Maybe the king’s men are Ouija boards or self-help books. Some people think when Jupiter aligns with Mars and Venus everything will work out. Maybe the king’s men are bartenders who listen as people cry in their beer. Many have tried New Age religion or felt that quartz crystals would put them back together again. All of these are Band-Aids feebly attempting to heal our brokenness.

SOME THINGS CAN’T BE FIXED

Humanity has climbed and stretched and reached for more power, more money, more possessions, more weapons and more pleasure and we’ve come crashing down. Divorce is shattering homes at a record pace. Crime shatters communities and wars shatter nations. Our world today is fractured, fragmented, splintered and split apart.

The bad new is-“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” couldn’t help Humpty, and they can’t help us. If we are looking through fleshly eyes there isn’t much hope these days. We have been a generation who took pride in our “can do” achievements and work ethic. Get a disease; there are drugs to cure it. Commit a crime and there are sharp lawyers to fight it. Wreck your car and there’s insurance to replace it. But unfortunately some things can’t be fixed. Once a deed is done it can’t be undone. Neither the king’s horses nor his men can fix some things.

Once our reputation is ruined, and relationships are destroyed, all the knowledge of science, all the discoveries and insights and military victories can’t put us together.

Skill and education are good. They are gifts of God. But they are still “king’s horses’ and they can’t fix fallen souls. All the technological experts and medical personnel; all the attorneys and politicians and academic professors can’t put us together again.

SO WHAT HOPE DO WE HAVE?


The first 39 books of the Bible are actually, in a sense, “king’s men.” The early patriarchs, the Law of Moses, and the prophets of old represent a great attempt to put man back together but even the Law failed to achieve this purpose. Finally God sent His Son, the King himself and He did what all the other king’s men couldn’t do.

Ephesians 2:15 says,-He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances that he might create in Himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace and might reconcile both groups to God in one body on the cross.

Romans 8:3 says, -For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do; by sending His own Son…

The problem with the Law was that it worked on the outside of us. It tried to patch us up with first aide cream and tape. Jesus came to make us new creatures and that’s what the gospel is all about.

Humpty took a risk, made a terrible mistake and suffered the consequences. The Bible says, -The wages of sin is death…Romans 6:23.

Romans 3:23 says, -For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The “king’s horses have failed and the king’s men have failed.” The only hope is the King Himself.

Humpty didn’t plan to smash on the ground at the foot of that wall. He didn’t plan to lay there in that painful condition all day long while the horses and men tried to fix him. And he certainly didn’t plan to be broken into a thousand pieces and let his yoke soak into the dirt.

KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR
There was a king in the Old Testament who had a great fall, but unlike Humpty, after a time of something that I can only describe as beyond terrible, he was restored to the top of his wall. His name was Nebuchadnezzar. We read about him in the book of Daniel. He was the king over Babylon, then the world’s greatest power.

Talk about a fall; because of his arrogance, God took away his position, his power, his resources, even his sanity. This man was reduced to grazing in the fields like an animal for seven long years. But unlike Humpty, Nebuchadnezzar had no king to call on. Humpty could call the king’s men but Nebuchadnezzar was the king.

God gave this man twelve months to repent of his sins and turn to Him but Nebuchadnezzar refused. Then, he like Humpty Dumpty came crashing down off his wall of position, fame and power. One moment at the top, the next moment, he couldn’t tell you his name. He went barking mad.

In an instant of time this king bent over, slumped down and started walking on his hands and feet like a dog. He spent his days and nights, naked, eating grass while his hair grew out and covered his body like fur. His fingernails became long like a bear’s claws. He went from a man to an animal in the blink of an eye.

For seven long horrible years Nebuchadnezzar lay at the bottom of the wall broken, battered and out of his mind. The condition he was afflicted with is a documented medical condition called Boanthropy. It’s extremely rare but it still happens today. But one day, in the midst of his insanity he looked up towards God and begged for mercy and God in His infinite love extended to him grace and restoration.

God heard the cry of this poor man and restored all that he’d lost…his sanity…his position…his power…his resources and his palace. God picked this old king up and put him back on the wall. But this time the man wasn’t the same. In fact he became greater than he was before but the pride and arrogance were gone and in its place was humbleness, respect and true worship for God. Humpty fell from his wall never to go back again. Nebuchadnezzar fell from his wall but was raised back up through the redeeming grace of God.

Everywhere you and I look these days we’re surrounded with modern day Humpty Dumpty’s, men and women who rose to power and fell to the bottom again.

You will probably remember Chuck Colson, one of President Nixon’s most trusted advisors. Colson had it all…he had power…he had prestige…he had money and he had the ear of the president of the most powerful nation on earth. He lived on top of the wall.

Then Watergate happened. Colson made some bad decisions, took some illegal actions and ultimately went to federal prison. How art the mighty fallen. But Colson didn’t stay there. In prison he called out for help, but he didn’t call for government help; that had already failed him. Colson placed his trust and faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. God restored him to prominence, but it wasn’t to the West Wing of the White House, it was leadership in the Prison fellowship ministries, a place where he could help other prisoners find hope in Christ.

Here’s the truth, if we move away from God, the further we go the worse things will get for us. Conversely, the closer we stay to him the better things will be for us.

If you’ve drifted away from the Lord, and are following your own plans and desires and trusting in yourself more than Him, this would be a good time for you to come back to Him.

Take the broken pieces of your life to the King and allow Him to show you the wholeness that can come through struggle and that through struggle, transformation can blossom in your life.

Humpty could find no help, but you and I can. Just for the asking we can have a new life through Christ.

Blessings,


John