Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Offended Christians--{or Christians so-called.}

By John Stallings

What is the devil’s most deadly & deceptive trap?

What tool of Satan imprisons countless Christians, severs relationships, widens existing breaches between people in families & churches--& is a leading cause of disunity?


Offense is described as-“an act of causing anger, hurt feelings, resentment, displeasure, or an affront.”

If caught in its early stages it can be dealt with before much damage is done but the deeper the offense & the longer it’s allowed to fester, the greater the chance that it will turn into a poisonous root of bitterness & bury itself deep within the soul. The result will be a harden heart against people & ultimately God Himself.

When an offense becomes a stronghold, an individual will develop a pattern through which all incoming information gets processed & then they start filtering everything through past hurts, rejections & past injuries.

Offended people feel justified in withholding forgiveness from the offender.
Offended people feel justified in gossiping to others about the offense.
Offended people feel justified in enlisting sympathizers in their cause & turning other people against the offender.
Offended people will produce much fruit, namely; anger, outrage, jealousy, resentment, strife, bitterness, hatred, envy & broken relationships.
Offended people often don’t know they’ve fallen into the offense trap.
Offended people feel; “I was mistreated or misjudged—therefore I’m justified in my behavior.”

Very often offended Christians [or Christians so-called] will refuse to be a part any longer of the Christian community. The people with whom they meet & rub shoulders are other offended folk. Sunday to them becomes a day for sleeping late or visiting relatives & friends or a day at the beach. It’s not uncommon for these offended Christians to give up Bible reading & Bible study & God becomes a relic of their past, although they are known to continue to talk religious & carry a strong attitude of self-righteousness. The point of justification for the dismissal of God from their lives is that they’ve been hurt somewhere along the way & there are “too many hypocrites in the church.” This argument is simply an evasive tactic to justify one’s negative feelings toward others & of God Himself.

Satan knows how easy it is for all of us to hold on to grudges & he does everything in his power to remind us of the injustices done to us, real or imaginary. He knows that if he can get us to allow unforgiveness to remain in our hearts it gives him a foothold.

People get offended by the words or actions of others, & often sermons. They feel every sermon is intentionally aimed at them. They might say; “no one spoke to me, the pastor shook my hand but his eyes were on another person.” Daily we all are presented with tons of opportunities to get offended every single second of our lives.

People who become offended in a church, usually move on to another church. Since they never deal with their spirit of offense, they keep moving around looking for a perfect church; a church that will never hurt their feelings. The truth of the matter is there is no such thing as a church that will never hurt our feelings.


If you’re walking through the woods & you hear a rattling sound, step lightly. It could be a deadly rattlesnake but you could also be in the proximity of a rodent called the porcupine.

The adult porcupine is about three feet long & weighs between 20 & 30 pounds. It’s known to rustle its quills to warn a potential predator to back off. In a worse case scenario [small animals such as dogs usually get the worst injuries] you could end up trying to pull out a bunch of barbed quills. The porcupines don’t have to aim perfectly either because they have on average 30,000 quills to throw, with fish-hook like barbs in them, located all over their bodies except their faces. [Thanks Wikipedia.]

When threatened the porcupine attacks by moving backward or sideways into the aggressor & the quills lodge in the aggressor’s skin. Every time the pierced victim moves, the quills penetrate further into its body. If the quills pierce vital organs the victim can die.


We’ve all taken some quills along the way & to be truthful we’ve all thrown a few quills. There are some people who- through the look on their face & their body language seem to be saying,-“You take a chance if you mess with me. I have plenty of quills & I won’t hesitate to use them.” These “quill throwers” are raspy & harsh & if you have even the shortest of encounters with them you will doubtless come away carrying quills.

We meet “quill throwers” in all levels of life. They are in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools, restaurants, department stores, driving down hi-ways & even in churches. You probably have one or two in your extended family.

Not only are there “Quill throwers,” there are also “Quill carriers.” If you’ve ever seen a church fight or for that matter a family feud you are aware of this. Quill carriers are folk who’ve taken some quills in life & have never gotten rid of them. Many times it’s because they don’t want to be healed. They savor the pain caused by quills.


In 1 Peter 4: there is what some call “The Peter Prescription.” Verse 8 says;--Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Notice Peter says—ABOVE ALL-love each other deeply. ……This is a biblical mandate! It means make every effort, -- go all out—make it priority one—love as if your life depended on it.

It may be painful to hear but the main reason we are super-bothered by others & the quills they throw at us is simple; we just don’t have the “love covering” we need to absorb the hurt & lighten up about the barbs thrown at us.

Notice Peter doesn’t say love covers-up sins, but love covers-over a multitude of sins.

When we don’t forgive others who trespass against us, or hit us with quills, the reason is—there’s not enough love to “cover it over.” Again…Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love gets a little confusing because we mean all kinds of different things when we talk about love. I love to fish & I love chocolate ice cream however I have a much deeper commitment to my wife than I do those things. But I use the same word, love.

In the church we’re always saying-God is love-therefore we should love too but what do we mean when we say that? When we step out of the spiritual realm we have Hollywood & T.V presenting movies about love like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got mail, Titanic, Friends, & Dawson’s Creek. These things can’t help but affect us, & some of our expectations grow out of watching them. Harlequin Romance Magazines sells 130 million books each year; books purporting to tell us about love. Some of it might be good & some of it bad so it’s important that we understand what we’re really talking about when we speak of love.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to a church that had all the spiritual gifts but they argued constantly. They had asserted how smart & gifted they were & so Paul had been critiquing this complicated & conflicted Corinthian church. The Love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 comes as almost an intrusion in the flow of the letter. Paul took great care to explain to them that though they had all these phenomenal gifts, anything minus love equals nothing. Zero.

When we think of love in the way the world presents it we’re usually talking about romantic love which is based on physical desirability. This love assumes that the loved- one is attractive & it assumes incredible emotional intensity so that one can’t help but pursue the loved one. But this is a far cry from what Paul is talking about because he writes love is more than an emotion. It’s capable of even loving the unlovable.

Sometimes when we use the word love we’re speaking of tolerance; you do your thing & I’ll do mine. Tolerance is good but it’s not the kind of love Paul is talking about. Sometimes love will compel us to be intolerant & demand change in an individual. Sometimes love will have to be tough, as in intervening in the life of a loved one who’s bound by drugs or other substances. It’s clear that tolerance isn’t the kind of love Paul’s talking about.

Sometimes love will be used as a cause; we love the environment so we wear wrist- bands & T-shirts to protest things that hurt the environment, but this isn’t the love Paul is talking about. Some of the meanest people in the world parade behind the banner of love for this or that cause & in crusading for tolerance; they can be so intolerant they’re downright dangerous. John Lennon wrote a song called “Give peace a chance,” & all the time he was at war with the Beatles. Their personal relationships were in shambles & they were calling the world to peace. Like the man who said, “I love mankind- its people I hate.”

The love Paul speaks about isn’t even friendship. Sometimes people will get sentimental & feel they have so much in common with an individual that they’ll say, “I love you.” There might even be an awkward hug & a few tears because the friendship touches them in such a way as to be thought of as love. Like two drunks in a bar who get a little lubricated & say, “I love you, man.” This isn’t the kind of love Paul is talking about.

As a matter of fact Paul isn’t going to let us guess what he’s talking about, he gets very concrete about love. He says love is patient. It can relax in the present. Love is willing to accept slow change & to try again. Love is patient & kind. Love is warm & sympathetic. It sees & feels the difficulties of the other person. It’s not cold & analytical. Love is kind & doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t boast & isn’t proud. Love avoids abrasive & inflammatory language. Love listens. Love is a dialogue. Love doesn’t scold a person like they were a family pet. Love isn’t easily angered. Love is more than biting the tongue; it works at the inner core of us.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes & perseveres. Love is constantly hoping for change in people & doesn’t give up after one good try. Love is going to try & try & try again. Love isn’t what we hear celebrities talk about on The Oprah Show.

Have you ever thought about the fact that right in the middle of the happy, romantic & love-filled marriage vows we start talking about better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness & in health? Just when we’re speaking of this feel-good love, we imagine those terrible scenarios. Why do we do that? It’s because deep inside we all want love that is secure. Deep down we know there is real, all embracing love. We want that love for ourselves & we want to be able to give it too. And so there it is in the vows- in the marriage ceremony.

But keep in mind; the love Paul speaks about is bigger than married love because he’s not talking to married couples. He’s talking to the church & he’s telling them this is the kind of loving relationships they should have. It’s the kind of love God loves us with.


These next words will be some of the most important words you’ll ever read because if you & I don’t get this thing called forgiveness right, we’ll miss the heart of the gospel. I am swinging this axe with great humility because I find forgiveness such a struggle. More than once in my life I’ve had people I trusted to prove unworthy of that trust by doing everything in their power to hurt me. As you know these kinds of people almost never ask forgiveness. But even in cases where I’ve been asked to forgive, & I’ve given that forgiveness to the best of my ability, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I still struggle with it. As Paul said, “I die daily.”

There’s no greater passage in the entire Bible that opens the heart of God on forgiveness than the narrative in Matthew chapter eighteen. I’m sure you’re familiar with it.

Even the disciples were having a hard time with forgiveness, so Peter came out & laid the difficulty of it right at the feet of Jesus. The Rabbinic teaching of the day said you should forgive someone up to three times & after that you could stop forgiving. To be on the safe side Peter doubled that & added one for magnanimity sake. He asked, “Lord when somebody messes me over, how many times should I allow that to happen before I stop forgiving them? Seven times?”

Jesus said, “No, Not seven times. Seventy times seven.” We’d be missing the point here if we think Jesus was talking about a literal number. Jesus was actually talking here about how grace should operate in the life of the believer when it comes to the difficulty of forgiveness.

So Jesus told a simple, crystal-clear, scintillating parable & explained the issue of forgiveness to His disciples as well as you & me. We don’t have to be rocket scientists, bible scholars or great theologians to get the point of this parable.

It’s a story about a king & his servant. The king has loaned his servant money & decides to call in the loan. It’s pay-back time. Servant A is the first man we meet. He has run up a whopping tab, roughly 12 million dollars. The point is, it’s such a vast sum it’s impossible to pay back. The servant is unable to pay so the king took the next step & ordered the servant & his wife & children to be sold into slavery & his entire estate to be put on the auction block. At least the king can salvage a little bit of money on this deal.

But the servant begins to beg for mercy. He’s trying to buy time. He’s hoping the king will cut him some slack. He literally pleads for his life. Then the most unexpected thing happens; like a bolt from the blue the king totally forgives & cancels the entire debt. Suddenly servant, wife, children, & estate are off the auction block.

Now put yourself in that servant’s shoes. How would you be feeling at that moment? When somebody gives you a break in traffic aren’t you more likely then to give someone else a break? But after all that forgiveness, servant A leaves as if nothing good has happened.

Enter servant B. Servant B owes servant A about $1.80 in today’s money. Like a scene from The Godfather, servant A says to servant B, “I’m going to remove your kneecaps unless you pay up.” Servant A shows servant B no mercy, instead he has servant B thrown into prison. We can agree that servant A is a jerk.

But there are always other eyes watching & someone went & told the king the whole story. Now for the second time servant A is called before the king. The king has another turn-around & this time his pity has turned to anger. He lowers the boom on servant A & throws him in prison.

The story is over for servant A & B but it’s not over for Peter & it’s not over for you & me. Jesus says, -- “Unless you & I forgive our brothers & sisters from the heart we’re going to wind up just like servant A.” And, oh, how God has forgiven the debt that you & I have run up. It’s far greater than 12 million dollars. The results of the tab are eternal death & separation from God in hell.


God is so obsessive that He mandates & orders forgiveness & just like any other scriptural mandate it’s for our own good. God knows that you & I will never be able to move toward wholeness, live victoriously & be healed until we let go of resentment, give up on revenge, & let Him take the quills out we’ve collected over the years.

The mistake we make is to look at the person who has wronged us & what they’ve done to us. This parable reminds us that’s a mistake. We need to look at who God is & what He’s done for us. There are no limits to forgiveness because there’s no limit to God’s grace.

The following is nothing new to most Christians but I have a feeling if we really took it seriously it would change the way we view the Lord’s Prayer.

Right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer is a phrase that you & I, if we’re not careful will pray mindlessly. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Have we honestly thought about what we’re asking God to do here? Have you ever felt like falling silent at this point? We’re asking God to forgive us, to treat us --exactly the way we deal with other folks who’ve wronged us.


He was condemned to death by evil men who plotted against him & produced lying witness to convict Him. As He surveyed the howling mob cheering His suffering, the man who knew no sin, the only innocent man who ever walked this sin cursed planet uttered the words that still ring across the centuries; “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34] Those 11 tortured words sweep away all our nonsensical excuses & reveal the barrenness of our hearts. They rip the cover off our unrighteous unforgiveness & show it for what it is.

Many of us say, “If only the people who hurt me would show some remorse, some sorrow, then maybe I would forgive them.” But consider Jesus on the cross. No one seemed sorry, quite the contrary-- they laughed, mocked & jeered Him. They hurled insults at Him. The people who killed Him were pleased with themselves. Pilate washed his hands of the whole sordid affair. The Jewish leaders hated Him with a fierce irrational hatred. They were happy to see Him suffer & die.

Evil was in the air that day. The forces of darkness had done their work & Jesus would soon be in a tomb. No one said, “I was wrong, this is a mistake.” And yet He said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” --this is precisely what we must say to the quill throwers; the people who hurt us deliberately & repeatedly.

We must say it to those who intentionally attack us.
We must say it to those who casually & thoughtlessly wound us.
We must say it to those closest to us, to our husband or wife, to our children, to our parents, to our friends, to our neighbors, to our brothers & sisters.

“Father forgive them” is what we must say if we want to follow Christ.

Every Blessing,


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightening... "

By John Stallings

Have you ever wondered why the Lion is called “The king of the beasts?”

I have, and for good reason. The lion simply isn’t the king of the beasts. Admittedly the lion is fast, powerful and stealthy, but again -not the real king of the beasts.

That’s right, the lion isn’t,-not even by a long shot - the real king of the beasts. Well, if the lion isn’t the king of the beasts, what animal is?

Let’s consider the grizzly bear. Do you think a big, 400 lb. lion could win in a battle with a 1500 pound grizzly? No way! The bear is three times bigger than the lion is. The grizzly would win! Hands [or paws] down.

So Mr. Lion just lost his title. -Or did he?

If the lion isn’t really the king of the beasts, why is he called the king? Well, the reason is because lions hunt in prides, or packs. If a lion and a grizzly got in a fight, do you think there’d be several, as many as thirty grizzlies there to help the bear? Sorry. It won’t happen.

What about the lion? There would be dozens of other lions show up and that would be the end of the grizzly.

A few years ago I didn’t know what YOUTUBE was. But here I am recommending one of their videos to you. I first saw the video I’m going to tell you about several years ago on Discovery. I was surprised to learn they now have it on YOUTUBE. I would recommend if you haven’t seen it to watch this video. Amazing! It’s called-Battle at Kruger, a national park in Africa.

In September 2004 a baby Cape buffalo got separated from the group and a bunch of lions instantly came and attacked the baby. The little buffalo was struggling but in vain. The baby ran toward the water but the lions followed and got close to the water and continued the attack. So here we have the baby buffalo in the water and five or six lions are pulling on him. The fight continues when all of the sudden two crocodiles come up from the water and grab the baby buffalo. So there is the baby buffalo with the lions pulling from one side and the crocs from the other side.

The baby buffalo was facing certain death from either direction. But finally the crocs relent and the lions succeed in pulling the baby up on dry land and settled down to eat it. However, about this time a  large group of Cape buffalo got their act together and approached the scene in mass. They got up close to the proceedings and were “snorting fire.” One of the big buffalo gored one of the lions and threw him high in the air. That tickled me good. The buffalo chased the other lions away and amazingly the baby gets up and walks back to the safety of his rescuers. The group saved him.

Peter tells us;

Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.-1 Peter 5:8

It doesn’t get clearer than that. This verse tells us that Satan isn’t hiding out in hell; he’s up here in our midst just waiting for an opportunity to unleash havoc in our lives. Peter says; watch out, your adversary is just waiting to pounce.We open ourselves up to satanic attack when we step out of God’s “Safari vehicle.”

If I wanted to preach a little here about church attendance- I could. I believe I will. Friend if you or I try to face the evils of this world by ourselves we will soon go down. Stay with the group. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together. It’s dangerous to be out there alone so don’t do it. We need each other and most of all we need Jesus.


 TV lions. Computer lions. Immoral lions. Satan is a spiritual predator who stalks our children, our marriages and our lives. We’re not safe alone. Join with Jesus and put on His armor and you’ll be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Don’t get out of God’s safari vehicle of protection. Don’t wander off on your own. Stay in Christ. Walk in the light as He is in the light. Satan, in a manner of speaking, “owns the night.” Snakes and other nasty things crawl at night.

 Have you ever noticed that not much bad happens in the daytime? We get up in the morning to listen to the news about what happened last night. Very few stabbings or shootings happen during the daylight hours. Night is the dangerous time. Darkness belongs to the nocturnal predators. When watching the animal channels, if they show lions and how they spend their days, they’re usually either sleeping or just lying around, because they’ve been up all night hunting.

Bad things lurk in the shadows. As a child I was afraid of the dark and when I look back now, I realize I was right.

As people of God you and I are children of the light. When the fire goes out, the darkness intensifies and the lions come close. Keep the fire burning in your heart. Without Jesus you and I are toast, but with Him we’re invincible.


Jesus had His twelve disciples but He also had another group of helpers called “The Seventy” that He’d send out on ministry missions. One day they returned from one of these junkets all abuzz about how “even the demons were subject to them.” Jesus looked around and found a stump to stand on to quiet them down. Then He addressed them;

I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written down in heaven. – [Luke 10:17-20]

The last part of that verse deserves a lot of time but I’ll have to leave it for later.

The Bible contains only a small amount of material about Satan’s origins however Jesus tells us concerning Satan;

He was a murderer from the beginning and doesn’t stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks he speaks a lie from his own resources for he is a liar and the father of it. [John 8:44]

To the popular mind the idea of a real devil is practically a laughing matter and a source of jokes, but we’d do well to take him seriously. He doesn’t wear red underwear with horns and a tail and carry a pitch-fork, but he’s still a threat which is why Paul noted that -we aren’t to be ignorant of his tricks, traps, plans schemes, contrivances or stratagem. [2 Cor. 2:11]

Here are some of the ways Satan is at work in our lives;

· he has his dark angels to help (Revelation 12:7)
· he has his own ministers (2 Corinthians 11:15)
· he performs his own miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 7:21-23)
· he instigates false doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
· he perverts the Word of God (Genesis 3:1-4)
· he hinders the works of God’s servants (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
· he blinds men from the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4)
· he accuses Christians before God (Job 1 & 2; Zechariah 3:1-4; Revelation 12:10)
· he lays snares for men (2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Tim 3:7)
· he tempts (Matthew 4:1; Ephesians 6:11)
· he afflicts (this one’s all too common in Scripture, - Job 2:7; Acts 10:38)

It’s scary to know the devil has tricked much of the world into believing he’s no more real than the Easter Bunny.

Satan is real, not just a figment of human imagination. He’s personal in that he’s not some vague embodiment of evil. Jesus called Satan by name when He overcame him and at the time of His
temptation in the wilderness. Matthew 4:10/Luke 22:3.


He was created a powerful and intelligent angel who became full of pride and desired to be worshiped as God instead of serve and worship God. He wages a war in heaven where he loses and he and 1/3 of the angels who fought on his side are swept out of heaven. These fallen angels are referred to in the bible as demons, powers, authorities, spirits. They’re powerful, evil, angelic hosts that carry out Satan’s designs. They are highly organized. Satan is thoroughly evil, hates God and all that is good and is set on destroying all that God has made.

He targeted our first parents in the garden. Adam and Eve were put on the earth to be God’s representatives and exercise dominion over God’s creation. But Satan tempted them with his own hubris: you can be like God and can be autonomous from God. They rebelled against God and willfully sided with Satan over God. In doing so, Satan introduced his dominion, exercising a pervasive, controlling influence over the world, so that the Scriptures call him the “ruler of this world,” “the god of this age,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and states that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

Satan exercises a powerful, controlling influence over people, nations, in this fallen world and promotes every kind of evil. Anytime we see violence, bloodshed, murder, war, oppression, genocide, or any other expression of hate as well as any and every sin, deception and evil, Satan and his demonic host are promoting it, enticing people to it and empowering it.

He is the “spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). You can trace all evil, error, and violence back to Satan. His ultimate desire is to deceive all people away from God into sin, misery, death and eternal destruction. This is an age when he is continually active and his reign over what the bible calls “the kingdom of darkness” is very real. But we should never forget…


This is essentially what Jesus was telling the seventy, He was watching when satan fell like lightening from heaven. When Satan deceived Adam and Eve and plunged the entire world into sin, misery, and death, God made a promise. Genesis 3:14-15 says;

“The LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is a promise that God would bring forth from the woman one who would utterly defeat Satan.

We know from the rest of the story that Jesus is the promised one, eternal God the Son, incarnate. 1 John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. His life and ministry showed that Satan’s kingdom was crumbling and the Kingdom of God was overcoming it and would one day eradicate Satan and the kingdom of darkness. Matthew 25 and Revelation chapter 20 give us the final word on Satan. He will be cast into eternal fires of hell along with his demonic hosts, a place created specifically for him, and the Kingdom of this World will become of the Kingdom of our God and his Christ…

Satan opposed Jesus during his earthly life and at every stage, Jesus overcame him. Satan’s greatest attempt was to entice Judas to betray Jesus and the political powers to crucify him. But even in doing so he was, unknowingly the agent of God to bring about the plan of God and seal his own doom.

It was the cross that dealt the decisive death blow to Satan. Col 2:13-15. Satan’s destructive power lies in his ability to deceive people away from God into sin, misery and ultimately eternal condemnation. The Cross strips him of that power – it reconciles us to God, secures forgiveness of all sin, releases us from condemnation by paying the penalty for sins, frees us from sin’s controlling power, purchases for us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to resist temptation and hear and obey God and live in his will, and gives us an eternal home in heaven forever.

Those of us who have sided with Jesus, who have received his grace and salvation have experienced a dramatic change in our life. Colossians 1:13-14 says;

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

We are no longer enslaved to darkness, no longer enslaved to his controlling influence and no longer captive by his lies to do his will, no longer kept alienated from God and under condemnation.

We belong to Jesus; we are forgiven, live in his kingdom and are under his saving reign. Satan is defeated; Christ has rescued us from his grip on our lives. Jesus is sovereign over evil powers and has defeated them. So Satan is utterly defeated by Jesus and doomed. His days are numbered; his kingdom will come to a complete end. But Satan is like a Kamakazi pilot; he’s as good as dead, but he’s going to take down with him as many as he can.

I recently ran across a T.V program about a man who travels the world looking for “River monsters,” -fish who live in fresh water but are still very large and dangerous. He always catches and releases fish after his “study” is complete. He obviously doesn’t want to kill them, just make them late.

This man happened to be fishing in Texas lakes and rivers for GAR. This is what fishermen call “trash fish” because they’re not good for anything, they just kill and eat “good fish.” As a kid I can remember fishing with my father and when he’d catch one of these fish he’d be disgusted and say, “Oh, it’s just an old Gar.”

These GAR fish have rows of teeth almost comparable to alligators, and even the smaller ones can inflict damage on a person. The first Gar the man pulled in was about three feet long, although Gar can grow to be over seven feet long. The fish was thrashing about the boat so hard he cut the fisherman’s hand and blood was flowing everywhere. For all practical purposes, the fish was helpless and defeated lying in the boat but even though small he was able to inflict some damage.

This, to me is a good way to think of Satan. He’s defeated but still able to deeply wound us if we lose sight of the fact that he’s alive and is on the job 24/7.

Satan is like the “trash fish.” He can create nothing. He’s never made anything and he’ll never make anything. All he can do is destroy what God has made. His power is totally negative in every way.His delight is to smash, mangle, twist, mutilate, disfigure, darken and blast in every way he can. He destroys by deceiving, by lying, by distorting, by counterfeiting, by masquerading and clouding human minds with illusions and fantasy.

Satan relentlessly opposes the people of God. Our cold and ruthless enemy steadily and untiringly opposes the Church and Christians. He and his demonic forces are intent on bringing ruin and misery upon God’s people. We wrestle not against flesh and blood.

Addictions or sinful patterns of lust, pride, anger, rage, abuse, sexual sin and perversion, lying, sloth, greed, gossip, slander, deception – all these things are fueled and inspired by our enemy and he gets a stronger grip on our life when we give in to them. Satan attacks marriages inspiring coldness, infidelity and divorce. People lose their temper with their children and abuse them either verbally or physically. He attacks churches inspiring moral failure, false doctrine and division in the body. He attacks our conscience condemning us for past sins and failures that we have already confessed to God.

Many people live with so much defeat, conflict, struggle, pain and relational turmoil in their lives, jobs, marriages, and families and are completely oblivious of what is standing behind all of it. It is not flesh and blood that is the problem. It is our cold and ruthless enemy seeking to bring sin, misery and ruin into our lives and keep us from the life God envisions for us.

But we don’t have to live defeated lives. The message of the Bible is clear – Christ is victorious and in him we are more than conquerors; he leads us in triumphal procession; greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.

We can stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might and resist the devil and he will flee from us. Romans 16:20 says- “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

This is the normal Christian life – one where we are not being defeated, but dealing crushing blows to the enemy as we resist him and experience Christ’s life giving grace. But victory will not come easily. We must learn how to discern and defeat the enemy. If you and I are going to win a fight, we have to know our enemy and how the enemy fights. And we have to know what weapons are being used so we can have the right weapons. Most Christians are ignorant of our enemy’s schemes. We may know that he wants to destroy our marriages, but we don’t know the subtle ways he would go about it. We may know he tempts us to sin, but we must also know his schemes that snag us.

The biblical reality is that you belong to one of two kingdoms – you have either sided with Jesus and belong to his kingdom… or you have aligned yourself, even unintentionally, with Satan who stands in rebellion against God.

If you and I either knowingly or unknowingly side with Satan we’ll share his fate.

When Satan fell like lightening from heaven, that was the beginning of his downward trajectory. His doom was sealed when Jesus died on the cross. Satan’s final fate, his last step down will be when he’s finally thrown into the lake of fire.[Rev. 20:10.]

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus died to make humanity free and bring them into his kingdom, not by force, but by love. He died to reconcile us to God that we would no longer be enemies of God, but friends of God; He bore our condemnation so that we would not have to fear the accusations of the enemy, but could live in the freedom of forgiveness.

All the sins stacked against us, were stacked upon him.

He was condemned so we could be accepted by God.

He became powerless on the cross so that we could be empowered by the cross.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Only Verse The Devil Ever Quoted

By John Stallings

I read an article recently about something that happened after a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park.

One ranger found an Eagle petrified in ashes perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Sickened by what he saw, he knocked the bird over with a stick and three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring’s to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but she refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze arrived, the mother had remained steadfast and because of her willingness to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.

This story is analogous to the promise in Psalm 91:4 that- God will …cover us with His feathers and under His wings we’ll be safe.

You probably recognize the following passage as the one Satan quoted to Jesus in the wilderness;

….for it is written, He will give His angels charge over thee; and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. --Matt.4:6

Old split-foot was quoting from Psalm 91and verses 11-12 are so powerful he couldn’t resist trying to tempt Jesus with them. Obviously he failed. The fact that he only quoted this portion of scripture isn’t meant to imply that he isn’t well versed in the Word of God.

James 2:19 says; Satan believes and trembles.


It was my mother’s favorite chapter and the Psalm has fascinated me for years. Mom would hold her Bible close to her heart, opened to Psalm 91 when she was doing “dangerous” things like flying. I always think of her when I read the Psalm and have grown to love it as she did because of its marvelous promises.

Years ago someone was looking over letters written during World War 11 between people in the United States and their sons, brothers or sweethearts serving overseas. Almost every single letter had references to Psalm 91. Though promises of God’s protection are echoed throughout the pages of the Bible, there is no chapter that better covers His ability and desire to deliver His people than Psalm 91.


It gives us powerful revelation on how far God the Father can and will go to protect His own, even in the worst terror scenarios imaginable.

In verse 7, the Psalm says, A thousand shall fall at thy side & ten-thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

It’s hard to imagine circumstances when this Psalm was written where ten-thousand at a time would be killed, but it sounds an awful lot like our day. Isn’t it comforting to know that God has promised to be a shelter or protection from danger, distress and calamity that’s so secure it’s inaccessible to your enemy? When we think of the Tsunamis, earthquakes, killer storms, pandemic, and wars we are seeing today, and the list goes on; it’s evident that we need this kind of holy “bomb shelter.” Even many unbelievers are beginning to ask if this is the end of the world.

Psalm 91 speaks of;


The presence of God is to be our home address.

It’s important to notice that these Psalm 91 promises aren’t to everyone regardless of their lifestyle. These promises are to those who “dwell (or live) in the shelter (or secret place) of the Most High.”—verse 1. - The call is to live in the secret place-not just to have a time of prayer occasionally. We are admonished to dwell, reside, abide and stay continually in the secret place with God. Verse 9 says we’re in the “secret place” when we “make the Most High our habitation.”

It’s not actually a physical place or even a devotional activity but an attitude and decision of the heart; a direction of the spirit toward God, continually cultivating fellowship, friendship and relationship with Jesus and an inner position of faith. Doesn’t it make your heart yearn for that ever-increasing experience?

This promise is for us to abide, or rest. Not just a cessation of activity but rest for the soul in the midst of activity. It’s much like Jesus’ invitation to “take His yoke and learn from Him.” When God is your dwelling place, “there’s no place like home.”


Everybody wants to feel more secure. So many things can go wrong in life. People are betrayed as well as grow sick and old. They have disappointment after disappointment in life. Or maybe the doctor orders tests and the report says Cancer, Parkinson’s, Heart disease or Leukemia. Maybe it’s trouble with family and people are feeling bitter, ignored and forgotten. Perhaps they’ve burned out on alcohol or drugs, or they’ve been sexually abused or physically mistreated as a child.

Though we crave security, just how much security is there in this world? Recently a local Orlando pastor, 69 years old was walking out of a Home Depot and two men in their mid-sixties called him over to their car under the pretence of asking for directions. They pointed a gun at him and forced him to take them to his bank and withdraw $2,000. Then they took him to a remote place and dumped him off. He was scared but happy to be alive. Did you notice that the crooks weren’t teenagers, they were older men? What does it say about our times when two pensioners hold up a preacher? I know some pastors who wouldn’t have had as much luck at their ATMs as this man did.

The security or protection industry is one of the fastest growing industries in North America. In homes and offices people are putting bolts on doors, and motion detectors in rooms. Alarms, cameras, and electrified fences are being used to protect persons and property.

Everywhere you go you see the stickers of all kinds on buildings saying they are protected by a certain company. Armored cars are becoming more and more popular around the world. Nuclear arms in the hands of terrorists have become a very real possibility as we now must face up to an enemy that until 9/11 most of us didn’t know we had.

To people everywhere looking for a sense of security the Psalm 91 speaks words of comfort. Comfort is one of the great themes of the Bible. God is our refuge and fortress; He is our shelter. “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings will you find refuge.” Ps.91:4- God makes it clear that those who abide in Him will receive His divine protection.


Most children have no burdens. They don’t go to bed at night worried about things. If they have an ache they don’t start trying to remember at what age grandpa died and what he died of. If they have a leg pain, they don’t spend time worrying if it’s a tumor or blood-clot. No, they simply lay themselves down and drift into peaceful sleep. All is generally safe and secure in their world because they’re in the safe keeping of their parents. When the parents are doing their job right, the children are able to rest secure in the knowledge that someone big and strong is in charge; someone who knows just what to do in any eventuality. As far as children are concerned, parents guard the fort all night long, checking the doors and windows, turning the temperature up or down, keeping intruders and monsters away. Parents are seen as fearless watch-dogs who always guard and protect the sheep. Under God’s wings we can be as safe as little children need and want to be.


Verses 3-6 say, --Surely He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers & under His wings shall thou trust. His truth shall be thy shield & buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
Someone might ask, “If this Psalm is true, why do bad things happen to Christians? In the Tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes we experience, many Christians die.”

That’s true. People even die with some part of Psalm 91 on their lips. Many of the boys who were claiming these verses in wars didn’t come home alive and many who did come home were severely wounded. So what do we have here, and bunch of verses with no teeth? No way!


It doesn’t mean we should go to sleep at night and not lock our doors. It doesn’t mean we should organize a tour and fly over to Afghanistan, with stops in Iraq, Iran & Mogadishu. It doesn’t mean that we can smoke, drink, overeat, drive like Jehu & expect God to be sure nothing bad happens to us.

God puts a divine hedge around every one of His children. If that weren’t so, the devil would kill us as soon as we become Christians. However God allows the hedge to drop sometimes for our own good to test our faith and show Himself alive in our lives. Can you imagine what we’d be like if we were carried on a silk cushion and never had a test or trial? A lack of any kind of struggle would be tantamount to destroying us. As the song says, “If we never had a problem we’d never know that God could solve them.” This is exactly what God did in Job’s life but it was for Job’s ultimate good. Also the protection of God is sometimes removed in order to discipline a disobedient Christian. But again, this is for the good of the wayward saint. - 1. Cor.5:5.


In Matt.4:6 the devil tried to get Jesus to cast Himself down from the highest point of the temple. That’s when the devil quoted from Psalm 91; - He will give His angels charge over you, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Of course, being who he was, the devil sought to twist, misinterpret and misapply this verse in the life of Jesus. And Jesus, being who He was didn’t let him get by with it.

What did Jesus do? In verse 7 He said, --On the other hand it is written thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Jesus is stressing balance where the scriptures are concerned. He says in essence, -- “yes, the Bible says that, but look what else it says.” Jesus is telling us not to act like fools and expect God to come through for us. It’s always good before we take one verse and run with it to say, O.K that’s what the Bible says here, but what other teaching is there on the subject? It’s advisable to read not only the verse before and after the one we’re considering, but also the chapter before and after the one we’re considering. This is “rightly dividing the word of truth,” and not “leaping” from an isolated passage. I believe that if I were bitten by a poisonous snake while on a mission for God like Paul on the island of Melita, (Acts 28:1-5) that God could and would spare me as He did Paul. But if I went out looking for snakes just to put God to the test, I’d have no faith at all that God would be obligated to protect me. In my opinion, that would be tempting God.

Some people are always “jumping off pinnacles” putting God to the test to come through for them. They will say, “The Lord told me to buy this or that” though they don’t have a penny. Then they claim they acted on faith trusting God to provide for them. In reality they’ve jumped off a “financial pinnacle.” If we let someone pressure us to “write a check by faith, in Jesus name,” to give to or invest in this or that, if it isn’t God, when the check bounces, it won’t bounce on Jesus’ account, it’ll bounce on ours.


Believing is absolutely vital to our ultimate success. We must be convinced that God will do what He said He’ll do for us no matter how circumstances might appear. The Psalmist doesn’t try to duck reality in Psalm 91. He mentions a full cornucopia of problems like “arrows, pestilence, destruction, lions, snakes, dragons and bird hunters.” These are more or less poetic words describing the dangers we all face. I understand this Psalm to say that God gives the “secret place” Christians 24/7 protection. There is no threat, seen or unseen, anticipated or unexpected which can catch God unaware and unable to protect us. When Insurance companies start to write you a policy they want to know if you’re engaging in practices like skin-diving, sky-diving or motorcycle racing before they insure you. Again, we need to exercise good judgment, but with God no matter how disproportionate the odds, He’s able to protect us and deliver us like He delivered the whole nation of Israel from Pharaoh.

There’s no better proof of this than in Exodus 7-12, when the plagues hit the Egyptians leaving the Israelites who believed God untouched. In every case the Egyptians suffered but not the Israelites.

But the Lord will make a difference between the livestock of Egypt & the livestock of Israel; so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel. And the Lord set a definite time saying; --Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land. So the Lord did this thing on the morrow, & all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died. Exodus. 9:4-6—NASB

Hail destroyed the crops, the cattle and the servants of the unbelieving Egyptians, but the Israelites weren’t harmed. (Exod.9:18-26) The first born of the unbelieving were all killed by the death angel, but those who believed God, applying the blood of a lamb to the doorposts and the lintel of their house, weren’t touched. (Ex.12.)

Another place the saint of God is safe is from the wrath of God. In vrs.7-10 we are told that those “who dwell in the secret place of the Most High” need not fear Gods wrath, which when you think about it is the most awesome danger of all.—You will only look on with your eyes, & see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.The wicked will reap divine wrath, which is their recompense but those who have placed their trust in God will never suffer God’s righteous wrath.

Again, this doesn’t mean that Christians will never suffer, for the preceding Psalm (Psalm 90) talks about the condition of man in this present world. We aren’t told the there isn’t a night terror, just that we don’t have to fear it. If Christians didn’t have to worry about their stocks dropping, or grocery and gas prices, if Christians didn’t have to worry about acts of terrorism; if crooks would drop dead when they pointed a gun at a Christian, our churches would be filled with people who see the church and faith as a cotton candy world, with insurance against the troubles and problems of life. When the verse says that we “won’t dash our foot against a stone,” it doesn’t mean that a saint will never stump their toe. It means that God is interested in the minute matters of our lives. We never want to be so presumptuous that we take a promise of protection and push it to an unscriptural extreme when what God is telling us is that we should live our lives fearlessly, not foolishly.


Jesus tells His disciples,

--And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, & brethren & kinsfolk, & friends; & some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my names sake. BUT THERE SHALL NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEADS PERISH.

When we follow Christ we recognize that “If we lose our lives for His sake we’ll find them.” It’s possible that we could “lose our heads for Christ without a hair of our heads being harmed.” No doubt about it, whatever we lose for Christ’s sake, in His time we’ll ultimately be more than adequately compensated.

A Christian friend of ours in Florida was shopping one mid-afternoon in a small strip-mall near her home. As she exited a store and walked out into the parking lot, she had a “senior moment” and forgot where she’d parked her car. (I hate to admit I’ve had a few of these moments.) As she stood pondering about the location of her car she was aware of a genial, smiling grey haired lady walking beside her. My friend turned around and smiled at her and when she did the stranger asked, “Honey, have you forgotten where you parked your car?” Slightly embarrassed she admitted that she had, and the stranger said, “Well I’ll just help you find it.” She persistently stayed right by her side until my friend finally found her car. As she turned around to tell the lady she’d found it and thank her for her concern, the “stranger” was nowhere to be seen; she had vanished.

A few days later she picked up her small town newspaper and read a chilling story of a pregnant young woman who was abducted from a local shopping mall. Two men had taken her to nearby woods and killed her, just to get her car. The funeral for the young woman was perhaps the saddest the little town had ever seen. Since the young lady was expecting her baby soon, they’d taken the little one and laid it on her chest in the coffin.

Our friend was further surprised to read that the abduction had taken place in the same little mall where she’d been shopping. The real shock came when she synchronized the day and time and realized that at the same time the men had been scanning that mall parking lot looking for an easy target- that was the exact moment the “strange lady” appeared to her and walked by her side until she was safe. There’s no question in my mind that was a heavenly visitor who was dispatched to protect that child of God.


In Psalm 91:14-16, not the Psalmist-- but God is doing the talking. Look at all the “I wills.”

Because he has loved me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him’ I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and let him behold my salvation.

We aren’t safe because we “hope so” but because “God says so.” God not only promises His protection from trouble but His presence in danger. Sometimes He will “pluck us from danger” and at other times he will go through it with us. The three young Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not alone in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.-Daniel 3:25. And Daniel wasn’t alone in the lion’s den.-Daniel 6:22. Our Lord personally appeared to Paul one night as he was imprisoned. --Acts 23:11.

God says “because he loved me, therefore I will deliver him.” Isn’t God good to His kinfolk? God also tells us that we need to call on Him, and petition Him. Those who ask shall receive and to those who knock the door will be opened. Matt.7:7-8. -- If we recognize our peril and ask for God’s protection, we’ll get it.


In Psalm 91:2, the Psalmist says, I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge & my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.

Once we’re abiding in Christ and firmly believing His promises of protection, there’s something else for us to do. We need to open our mouths and express our faith in God’s delivering power. Not only does the Psalm 91 man believe in his heart, he opens his mouth and says of the lord--...He is my refuge & my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.

When times of stress come, we need to stay in faith and instead of saying, “I’m catching a cold” say things like “I’m catching some healing.” The only way I know to have a believing confession like that is to stay in God’s word and be ready for all eventualities. Sometimes we think that things start going wrong, and then we grumble. The truth is, we grumble first, and then things start going wrong. As we Abide, Believe and Confess the word of God, when trouble comes we’ll be able to hear the voice of God tell us what to do.

For many years I’ve pled the blood of Jesus over my life as well as friends and family for divine protection. When we do this we’re doing in a spiritual sense what the Israelites did in reality when they applied the blood of a spotless lamb on their doorposts. I’ve missed few days doing this in the last half-century. Many Christians don’t get this kind of protection because they don’t “pray it on themselves.” The Bible says in James 4:2—……Yet ye do not have because you do not ask. We may lose this valuable protection simply because we don’t ask; it’s just as simple as that.

Plead the blood of Jesus over your body, your cars, your house and all your loved ones who don’t know how to do it for themselves. Plead the blood over the building you work in. Quote parts of these Psalms of protection to God. I’ve heard people say, “Don’t throw God’s Word up in His face, He knows what He’s said.” Wrong! He won’t take offense at it. He likes it, for He honors His word above His name and it lets Him see you’ve done your homework. Express to God that you have full faith in His Word, you are staking your eternal soul on it and that you will stand on it during any future attack on you and yours. It’s probably the most effective thing you and I can do.

It’s clear to me that God is looking for those who will enter this secret place with Him. Verse 14 says - I will set him on high because he has known mine name. That is describing someone who has entered into a special relationship with Him.


The last verse of Psalm 91 says, “With long life I will satisfy him…..”

If I’m reading right, God will allow (secret place dwellers) to live a long life, protecting them from a plethora of dangerous evils.

This is a comforting reality because it's possible that all our landscapes changed forever with the events of the last few years.

What shall we then say to all these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31



Monday, April 10, 2017

Staying Alive!

By John Stallings

You knew him.

 If you've been a church-attendee for very long this man is no stranger to you.

The man usually wore dark clothing & donned the pulpit every Sunday, opened the Bible & preached. The thing you most remember is how dull & listless the sermons were. You tried to blame it on the dull lighting, the rock hard pews & the drab surroundings but alas, what it was- was boring preaching, coming from a man who'd given up.

This man had quit studying years ago & was simply reciting his old manuscripts. Though at the time, you may not have had enough experience to call it what it was, something in you knew he'd lost the joy, the enthusiasm of imparting God's Word to the people.

Nothing new. Nothing fresh fell from the lips of this man. It was in his voice & written all over his countenance. But he had one special magic that couldn't be denied & no one could take it away from him; He could make twenty minutes seem like two weeks.

Be honest; you've known this man haven't you? He'd basically shut down. He'd lost the wonder. He was only in his early forties but he constantly used the word "old."

But having spent so many years in the ministry myself, it would be dishonest of me not to admit there have been times in my own life, thankfully short-lived, when I endured spiritual dryness & faced head-on my powerlessness to do anything about it. I have looked into the abyss of spiritual burn-out & oblivion & wanted desperately to run & hide from the agony of it all. 

Not that I was or ever will be a Mother Teresa, but I can understand her "dark night of the soul," holding on by the fingertips & longing so very desperately for God. 

Standing before the people more than once a week as a spokesman for heaven feeling deep within myself that I wasn't worthy. But also knowing unequivocally that God had called me to speak for Him & even, God forbid, if I went to hell I’d take that call with me.

I have known Mondays when I was so emotionally exhausted & adrenaline depleted it was hard for me to talk. Mondays are days when I am most vulnerable to discouragement & despair after wringing myself dry emotionally & spiritually on Sunday.

There was a time when pastors always took Monday's off but that changed some years ago. Many ministers felt they'd be more productive to get into their offices on Monday & use the time to get organized for next Sunday since they couldn't relax anyway. As you know, preachers are only human. Their only hope of "staying alive" & viable is to study & pray & once again be engaged by the presence of the living Christ as He speaks into their hearts & the Scripture is illuminated by His Spirit.

Here's a simple illustration. I have an electric razor with a rechargeable battery as I suspect many men do. I can unplug it & walk all over the house shaving which I often do. But when the battery starts to run low, I can feel it & then I hear it as it slowly loses power & cutting ability. At that point I know I'd better get it back to the electrical socket in the wall & recharge the battery.

At least for me, this is a metaphor of life. We can all run for a short time without being plugged in, but sooner or later it catches up with us & we must get back to the source of power. The ministers I mentioned at the beginning of this article, many who have been & can still be some of God's most gifted men, just need to get back to the source of power that opens the mind, thrills the heart & causes us again to know the presence of the Living Lord.

In Luke 24, two disciples returned to Emmaus filled with despair with all that had happened in
on the previous days. They were drained & burned out. However a "stranger" joined them along the way & listened to their lament. Then as they walked He began to interpret the Word of God to them; the law, the prophets & the Psalms. He helped them to understand the necessity of the crucifixion they'd witnessed. As they walked, their hearts were burning.

Then later they broke bread together & then they recognized the "stranger" as the resurrected Lord Jesus. Then He was gone, but they knew He was alive. He'd been with them & promised to come again to dwell with them through the power of His indwelling Spirit. In a manner of speaking this visit from the living Christ helped those thoroughly dejected men to "stay alive," at least on the spiritual level.

Jesus showed up. Only in the presence of Jesus can we stay alive. What always saves the discouraged preacher or the downhearted Christian is when Jesus shows up & in his own wonderful way again stirs our spirit, & opens our eyes so that we again are aware of His presence at work -guiding, blessing, forgiving, & restoring hope. It's then that we see He is at work all around us in the lives of all whom we know & love. It's then & only then that the scales fall off our eyes & we're given glimpses of His divine grace at work everywhere.
And to make it even more glorious, we see that even our perceived botching of the things we were trying to do for Him can so graciously & perfectly fit into the divine mosaic which is our lives.

God never meant for anyone to be this way. He created us with a sense of wonder -with the capacity for passion, yet too many of us, like the preacher, shut down way too early.

Are you living every day filled with hope & expectancy? Are you living life to its fullest?

So many people once were excited about the future but somewhere along the way life has knocked all that out of them & their appetite & "lust for life" has been lost. They used to pursue their dreams but then they hit some roadblocks, things didn't work out the way they had hoped they would & now they're just going through the motions. They've quit dreaming. They've quit pursuing their goals & tragically they've lost their purpose.

It happens far too often. People have a great salvation experience. They become excited, devoted & committed. Every time the church doors open they're there. They can't wait to get there. The whole new world of faith has opened for them & it's all too wonderful for words. For months, sometimes years all goes well. They have no problems with their faith. But suddenly they began to have difficulties. They begin to drop out. The luster wears off; the excitement wears down & their devotional commitments shrink. Soon they disappear & become names on a dusty church role somewhere. No one sees them. No one knows them anymore.

In our youth, we were filled with joy & energy but now many of us have to work on stimulating them both. Why does this happen & how can we prevent it? How can we keep our spiritual experience vibrant & zestful? How can we spiritually "stay alive?" The answer isn’t deep or difficult to grasp.


First, you and I must...


We find some fascinating & helpful clues in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is facing death yet there are instructional keys to staying alive.

We know the disciples saw Jesus do many great miracles. Yet we don't read that they ever asked, "Lord, teach us to do miracles." We know the disciples saw Him use His intellect to silence the sharpest legal minds, but we never hear them ask, "Lord, teach us your mental acumen." We know the disciples observed their Master’s awesome command of the Old Testament manuscripts, yet we never hear them ask, "Lord, teach us what you know about the law." We know He was a master of crowd control & fully understood what it took to keep the masses of human bodies under control, yet the disciples never asked Him to tell them how to handle the throngs of people who pressed in to hear Him.

But the twelve had watched Jesus closely. They'd seen Him rise without disturbing a single soul to steal away & commune with His Father. Behind all of His skills they suspected something else was at work. They knew His secret; His awesome power was embedded in His prayer life. So they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray."
was a tough & terrible moment. The cross loomed before Jesus. He didn't want to go to the cross. He prayed about it. Father, take this cup from me. It was an earnest prayer. He sweat drops of blood. This is serious business here! It was agony to pray, but pray He did. Yet He found strength to pray, - Not my will but thine be done.

Do you see it? Prayer was Christ's way of keeping His faith alive. Friend we all need prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is friendship with God. Prayer is the way we keep the lines of communication open with God. The truth is, if we fail to pray our relationship with God grows dimmer & dimmer. We don't need a sanctimonious tone to talk with God. All we need is a willingness to communicate with Him & to be in His presence.

In these days of perplexity on all fronts, do you want to stay alive? Please read on.


You & I must continue to study & think. In the Garden Jesus didn't exhibit close-mindedness. He didn't say, "Now see here God, we never did it this way before." No!! Our Lord was open to God's truth. He was open to God's will; He was open to God's direction.

One night a little boy fell out of bed. When his mother asked him his problem he said, "I think I fell asleep too close to where I first got in." The tragedy is that as soon as we stop growing & learning, at that moment our faith begins to shrivel, shrink & die. We are like plants in that we need light to grow. To keep our faith alive we must continue to pray, grow, study, think & learn.

In the aftermath of some of the airline tragedies in this country, the sad reality has been revealed that the pilots & co-pilots were not really up to date on some of the latest facts about the machinery they were using. It has yet to be decided where to place the blame but the tragedy still remains that many hundreds of innocents souls who wanted above all else to stay alive, were lost, perhaps due to nothing more than the crew simply not having a small piece of information.


I have a book in my library that I read years ago called, "Do one thing different." I won’t try to recall much of it now but the gist of it is- if you want to affect change in your life, do just one thing different every day. Read a different newspaper. Surf TV channels & you’ll be surprised at the good stuff that’s available. You'd be surprised at what would happen if you simply changed from fried chicken to oven- broiled or baked chicken for one year. Or [And I've tried this one & it works -eat opened faced sandwiches for a few months... one piece of bread.]

One of the fastest ways to run out of steam is to operate as a lone wolf. We must love our enemies but we're under no mandate to work with them, if we're constantly having "dust ups." Work & fellowship with people who don’t have agendas & whom you can be peaceful with.

It’s been my experience that the fastest way to break through the wall of helplessness & hopelessness is to act. Do something. Don't just be a hearer of the Word, be a doer. It will keep you alive spiritually & even physically.


What do you think is the most important spiritual grace? If you say love, you'd certainly be on the right track, & you'd have the apostle Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived- in agreement with you. But if you asked Jesus that question--what's the greatest spiritual quality we could possess, you'd get another answer. Can you guess what that answer would be? Wait for's the Child-likeness of "A little child."

Did you notice the answer wasn't--childish? It was the -child-likeness of a "little child." What's the difference in a child & a little child? If you've raised children you know very well that there's a great difference in a child at about four or five, and a child at about five or six.

What's the difference? Among other things, it’s a sense of trust. One of the biggest differences is-a little child is unimpressed with any one's station in life. They will play with other children of any color, race or creed & pay no attention to pedigree or who the other kids are.

But twelve or eighteen months later you have a different “kettle of fish." Now you'll hear things like, "My daddy is the president of a bank," or, "My daddy has more money than your daddy." You'll probably hear them talking about their new item of clothing & what the brand name is. Isn't it interesting that Jesus called a child to him one day & said--
Unless you become as a "little child" you can't enter the kingdom of God


Let me ask you a very important question; did the Wright brothers quit? No! Did Charles Lindbergh ever quit? No! Did Joan of Arc ever quit? No! Did Jesus, or Paul, or James or Daniel or Elijah ever completely quit? Of course they didn't quit. Did Thorndyke Mckeester ever quit? The reader may ask, "Who on earth is Thorndyke Mckeester? I never heard of him!!” Of course you never heard of him. He quit!

In the early church, there was a leader who was close to the Apostle Paul. He was talented, bright, capable & full of potential. But we hear few sermons about him because he quit. His name was Demas. Some of the saddest words in the New Testament are found in 2 Timothy 4:10—Demas ……has deserted me…

Friend, we have to make up our minds to stay with it. Demas was destined for greatness but he got lost in the shuffle & quit. Don’t quit on life. Don’t quit on the church. Make up your mind to stay with this faith pilgrimage whatever the cost. It takes a lot of prayer, a lot of obedience, a lot of determination & a lot of grit & grace to stay alive.


Your arthritis may not be totally healed but is it better? Then praise God for it. If you have fewer migraines than you once had, praise God for it. It may sound insignificant but still it’s important that you do it. Celebrating incremental victories is important in all of life. If you’ve only lost an inch in your waist-line, celebrate it & believe God that soon you’ll be able to look at that side view of yourself in the mirror without getting that sick feeling.

Elijah saw a cloud so small it could be compared to a man’s hand but he respected it & kept praying until it turned into a deluge of rain.

David encouraged himself with the fact that he had killed a Bear & a Lion & it gave him the faith to kill a ten foot giant with a rock. Next...


George H.W Bush may not go down in history as a great president but every time he jumps out of a perfectly good airplane to parachute- I cheer him on from the safety of my couch. What a guy. Isn't he in his nineties now? While he’s jumping I’ll be fishing.

Each morning when we rise we’re faced with the decision to either save the world or savor the world. It really makes it hard to plan the day. My suggestion is, -do both. First pray & ask God for directions, then smell the roses. The Bible tells us…. God has given us all things to enjoy. I’ve said it before but I truly believe I’ve had more impact on the lives of people [if I've had any] by being jovial & of good cheer than with a lot of sermons I’ve preached. The sermons are not only important they are imperative but it’s also important that we spread good cheer whatever the endeavor we’re engaged in.

Things might not look all that good right now for you but Messiahs coming & He’s coming soon. Soon & very soon the right foot is going to step into the stirrup & the King of Kings will swing into the saddle. Things will be set right & …he shall reign forever & ever. Praise His Name!!


I never touched a computer until I was in my sixties & you’d be surprised how much I’ve learned. A few years ago if you’d have told me I’d be writing a blog I would have thought you “off the rails.” I want to say fully alive, don’t you? Writing keeps me praying and thinking .


If you expect to be able to withstand the shaking that’s coming you will have to be anchored in the Word of God. We will have to study the Word & build a dynamic relationship with God.

Some simply won’t stay alive when hell begins its all out vile assault against the faith. Some will leave because someone said something to hurt their feelings. They have spiritual myopia & can’t see further than their neighbors faults.

Some won’t stay alive to Christ because of what the church treasurer, a deacon, the choir leader or the pastor did. It really doesn’t matter why they leave; it just means they weren’t rooted enough in the Word to survive the shaking.

Some will leave the faith because of what an unscrupulous TV evangelist did or said. But mainly people will lose heart because they don’t read the Word of God & read it every day. It’s God’s Word that will fortify the heart & mind against error.

I don’t have to tell you there are going to be dark days ahead. Back during World War 2, Ruth K. Jones was reading 2 Timothy 3:1—This know that in the last days perilous times will come…. Moved by the Holy Spirit, she picked up her pen & wrote;

In times like these, we need a Savior. In times like these we need an Anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, your Anchor holds & grips the solid rock.

Where is your anchor today? Is it upon the solid rock?

We’ll not only stay alive but thrive in the worst of times if we’re anchored upon the Word of God, &

Christ Jesus, the only solid rock.





Thursday, April 6, 2017

Do You Have "A Bone To Pick" With God"?

By John Stallings

How would you react if you learned you had only a short time to live?

Once the initial shock wore off, what feelings would you be left with? Denial? Anger? Helplessness? Maybe even hopelessness? Can you imagine yourself being calm about it?

Throughout my years in ministry I’ve met with many people who were facing the very real fact that they were in their last days of life. And as you can probably imagine, they each faced it in different ways.

In a church I was pastoring several years ago there was a man in the congregation who just learned he had a very rapid-moving blood cancer.He was in his mid--sixties. The story is too complicated to tell here but suffice it to say this man was as angry as angry can be.

I sat several times while he told me how unfair he found this whole turn of events. He and his wife had saved and planned their whole lives for retirement, hoping to travel to many wonderful places and do many wonderful things. But he was diagnosed with this cancer shortly after retirement.

Fighting cancer had become his retirement activity. And as he began to see the cancer gaining the upper hand, he came to realize that he would never be able to take any of those trips or do any of the fun activities that he had so looked forward to.

I officiated at his funeral and I’ve never experienced such a “thick fog” of deep questioning that hung in air throughout the service. I feel sure this man went to heaven but I also feel he had some questions for God when he arrived.

It turns out, lots of folks are angry, and have a bone to pick with God. Why does He allow babies to starve in third world countries, why does He allow bad things to happen, why does He -- either actively or passively -- cause so much grief?

What does it suggest when many people, according to various studies, are angry at the guy at the top?

"We find that anywhere between one third and two thirds of people we've surveyed in the United States admit they sometimes feel angry at God in response to some current thing they are suffering with, such as a cancer diagnosis," psychologist Julie Exline of Case Western Reserve University said in an interview. "It's a very high number."

Although people rarely talk about it, almost everyone experiences anger toward God at some point in their lives, commonly after the diagnosis of a serious illness, the death of a loved one or a trauma.

In fact, nearly two out of three people report that they've felt angry at God, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Many get angry because they believe that God is responsible for the negative events in their lives.

I saw a movie sometime back called “The Apostle.” Robert Duvall played the part of Sonny, a ragged, hot-tempered, womanizing evangelist. Mostly because of his arrogance Sonny loses his church & his wife. His wife is leaving him for his youth pastor. Mercy! Angry & broken Sonny moves back into his mother’s house where he shouts, paces & hollers to God from an upstairs window.

“Somebody, I say somebody has taken my wife. They stole my church….I don’t mean to yell at you but I’m mad at you. I can’t take it. Give me a sign Lord. Blow this pain out of me. Lord, Jehovah, if you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace. Give it to me---give it to me….give it to me. Give me peace. I’m confused. I’m mad at you. I love you Lord but I’m mad at you. I’ve always called you Jesus & you’ve always called me Sonny—what should I do?”

His prayer is so loud that a neighbor calls Sonny’s mother to complain about the noise. “That’s my son” she explains. “Ever since he was a little- bitty boy sometimes he talks to the Lord & sometimes he yells at the Lord. And tonight he happens to be yelling at Him.” Old Sonny had a real bone to pick with God.


If someone has a bone to pick with you, it means you've done something wrong, at least they think you have, and they’re upset and want to talk to you about it.

In my mind it conjures up a picture of a dog, going through the arduous pains of getting every last speck of meat off a bone, and it looks like it’s going to take some time.

Or maybe it’s two birds who’ve found a bone and they’re “head to head” picking this bone, multi-tasking as they gnaw, talking something out between them.

In any case, ‘I have a bone to pick with you” is rarely a sign of “good things to come.”


Let’s be frank; that sounds a little odd to us doesn’t it? It sounds irreverent & entirely inappropriate. Well, maybe not. There is such a thing as confrontational prayer. This kind of prayer occurs when I bring my questions, doubts, disagreements & even my complaints directly to God. Sometimes its prayer spoken out of tortured complaint, out of suffering or outrageous anger in what I perceive to be the absence of justice.

You may say “I would never talk to God in anything less than soft respectful tones. Who am I to “Haul God to court?” Excellent points.

However, as long as your heart is in the right place and your attitude is one of humility, “picking a bone with God” will revolutionize your prayer life as well as your relationship with God. You see, in prayer God wants us to engage Him. It’s almost as if He’s saying “Talk to me, engage me, respond to me. Anything is better than the silent treatment & the cold shoulder. Argue, rant, rave, stew, disagree, but do something. Or worse, don’t come to me with pious words that are empty & fake.”

Prayer is a personal & passionate conversation with God. It’s an exercise that involves both of you—the real you—not the pretend you, the false you.

There’s a fascinating story in the Old Testament that focuses on God’s conflict with the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Moses, who finding himself in the middle of the conflict between God and the Israelites, -has “a bone to pick with God.”

This story describes a lot of weep’n and a wail’n. The Israelites have a bone to pick and are complaining bitterly about their hardship within the hearing of the Lord. They are crying out to God. After all, the wilderness has been no picnic, and the food has been awful! God did send them manna to eat. It came down at night when the dew settled on the camp; and there was plenty of it. But that wasn’t the point. The manna tasted bad. It probably smelled like old shoes; and it got stronger the longer you cooked it. It had to be used very sparingly. It’s no wonder the Israelites complained about losing their appetite, and longed for the meat and fish, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt.

But look at how God deals with this. Listen to God’s answer to Israel’s complaints.

“The Lord heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt. Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten, or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loath it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt.”

God is a God of love, but He’s a God of tough love. When God’s anger is stirred, God speaks and acts, and God doesn’t worry about being polite or politically correct. God makes judgments, judgments that self-serving religious people dare deconstruct at their own peril. When humans put their own will before the will of God, there are consequences.

Ever shared any of your anger with God? Have you let God in on your doubts and disappointments with Him?

Large segments of the Psalms are complaints. Yeah, complaints, good old fashioned griping, and bellyaching. You can call it “whining with just cause” if you want to. Call it whatever you want to call it but its there and it’s there repeatedly. It is what it is!

“Where are you God? Hello. Why have you abandoned me? If you are the big God you say you are why are you letting all this happen to me? Don’t you care? Aren’t you aware of my situation? Aren’t you going to do anything about it? What’s the use in worshipping you if life is going to be like this?”


Job is a put your cards on the table type of guy. He doesn’t pull any punches.

While his friends’ mouth off the traditional religious mumbo jumbo, always praise God and let Him off the hook, Job lays his case out against God.

Late in the book God pulls rank on Job and in response to Job’s bellyaching asks, “Where were you when I created the world?” In effect God says, “If you could have done a better job -Job why didn’t you make the stars and the sun and the animals and all the rest of it?”

Yes, God shuts Job up, but Job wasn’t exactly nice and patient. He was honest. He was honest to God and to his friends and to himself.


Even more confrontational with God than Job is the prophet Jeremiah. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I read Jeremiah 20 because it’s so radical.

We read in the 20th chapter that Jeremiah tells God this: “O Lord, thou has deceived me, and I was deceived.” In other words-“God, you lied to me.”

Jeremiah walked into God’s office one day and laid his “preacher papers” on God’s desk and said, “I quit.” He was so discouraged he felt he couldn’t go on. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah said, “God, I’ll never speak your name again. From now on you’re ‘what’s His name’ in the sky.”

Of course we know that he soon hit the dirt squalling like a baby and said—“I can’t quit, I just can’t! His word is like fire shut up in my bones.” Jeremiah got his heart right and finally accepted the fact that he wasn’t God-God was God!

If our hearts are right its fine with God for us to be angry with Him providing we do certain things with that anger.


When Jeremiah is angry with God, what does he do? He talks to God about it. He prays. God wants us to talk to him. “Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.”And Jeremiah's prayer is honest. God wants us to be honest. He doesn't want us to put on a “spiritually correct” performance.

It isn't that God needs us to be honest – he sees through the performance anyway. It's that we need to be honest, so that we can move forward spiritually. The more we lie to ourselves, to God, and to other people, the more impossible it is for us to move on.

One of the most important things to do when you're angry with God is to talk to God about what you're angry about. Tell God honestly where you are.


Another important thing to do when you're angry with God is to keep going at whatever God has given you to do. Jeremiah wanted to stop, but he didn't.

One of the things that will help us not to lose the plot spiritually is to keep going, even when we're angry. Thankfully anger is one of the quickest emotions to pass if we’ll give it a chance.


Apparently Jeremiah thought God had promised that his ministry would succeed. But he hadn't. He'd told Jeremiah what to do, but didn't give him any guarantees about the outcome.

In fact, God had warned Jeremiah right at the start that he was going to have a really tough time. You can read about it in chapter 1. God hadn't actually deceived Jeremiah, although he felt betrayed and let down.

Be careful what you think God has promised. God doesn't promise us all super-success in ministry, or financial well-being, or a marriage made in heaven, or robust physical health.

The times I've most felt angry with God have been when I've thought God had promised something, and it hasn't turned out, or hasn't gone how I expected.

But later on – maybe years later - when I calm down and look back, I realize that God never promised what I thought he'd promised. Be careful here. Check it out against the Bible.


It's OK to be angry with God, and it's good to talk to God about how you feel – but be careful what you say. Anger can very easily tip over into something more dangerous.

Getting back to Job; he was obviously someone who had a raw deal from life even though he was later given double for his trouble. Like Jeremiah, Job got around to questioning what God was doing, and to cursing the day he was born.

Job's wife egged him on to curse God.

The Bible says:

'His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:9-10).

Job was angry. Job asked questions. Job yelled at God – but he didn't sin in what he said. He didn't say that God was responsible for evil.

One of our big problems when we get angry is that we quickly lose control of what we say.

The idea here is that God is great in power, utterly in control of all that happens. Yes, he is kind and understanding towards us when we're angry with him – but he's also a God of justice and righteousness, so be careful what you say to him.

So we've said -let's get real with God:

• It's OK to be angry with God
• Talk to God while you're angry
• Keep going even when you're angry
• Be careful how you're angry

The bottom line is; we’re angry. And since no one else seems to be available to be angry at, we get angry at God.

And we feel guilty. We feel we shouldn't get angry at God! We worry that God's feelings will be hurt. Or worse yet, God will return our anger - and we all know how much better at being angry God could be!


This isn't like the old saying about not teaching a pig to sing, because you won't succeed and it will only irritate the pig. Being angry at God may indeed have a salutary effect on your life. And I don't believe it will irritate God.

Confronting God? Arguing with God? Many of us were taught that when we approach God we fold our hands, and close our eyes, think good thoughts about God & say pretty words to Him. The reality is we’ve too often been told that prayer is “getting stuff from God” when in reality prayer is “getting in touch with God.”

First of all, God already knows that we’re angry - if not, then God isn't God. Being all-knowing, God is quite familiar with your anger, even before you are. Our anger will not come as a surprise to God.

Second, God knows the source of our anger. God knows the events and experiences that make us angry. God knows our emotions and feelings. God knows all about our situation. God might even share our anger!

Third, God knows why we’re angry - the feelings of helplessness, fear, confusion, and dismay that lead to our anger. God intimately knows the inner workings of our minds and spirits, and God knows our limitations. We often are angry because we’re powerless, and God knows our powerlessness.

Fourth, God can take it. Oh yes, our anger is so titanic that God’s knees will buckle before us! Nonsense. God has faced greater anger than ours and survived! God's shoulders are broad and powerful - God can certainly deal with our puny anger. We do not run the risk of harming God with our anger.

So if God already knows about our anger, understands the source of our anger, discerns why we’re angry, and can easily handle our anger, why are we reluctant or guilty about expressing our anger?

In fact, some times it’s good to vent a little. Rather than keeping it all pent up inside us, some times just letting go and yelling our heads off can be a good thing. Too often we let our anger fester inside us, building up and growing until it seeks escape in destructive and violent ways. Let off some of that steam. Tell God what you think. You just might feel better and God won't be any worse off - honest!

Then you can go about the business of seeing with a clearer mind if there might be some way for you to do something about the situation. Clear the air with God about your anger, and then sit down with God and try to figure something out. But it is often necessary to get that anger and fury out of the way first. Having done that, you can more calmly and dispassionately consider the problem about which you are angry and find ways to do something about it.

So be angry at God. God can take it. There won't be any retribution from God. And you might be able to do some clear and constructive thinking about what made you angry.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath…Eph.4:26