Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hell Is No Joke!!!

By John Stallings

I’d like to share with you what to me is the most disturbing story Jesus ever told.

It doesn’t disturb in the sense that it makes me fearful. The reason it doesn’t make me fearful is that I long ago trusted Christ as my Savior & I plan to spend eternity in heaven with Him. It disturbs me because I know in my heart & I think you do also, that Jesus was incapable of telling a lie. Jesus is the truth!!!

What story do I speak of? First of all let me make it very clear that this story isn’t one of Jesus’ great parables that He used to such great effect. You will remember that in His parables, He never used names. But in this story He does, so what we have here is Jesus giving us a documentary using actual names. This was a story He knew about & a man named Lazarus.

In Luke’s gospel, chapter 16, Jesus takes us to a place called hell & gives us a glimpse of it so we’ll be forewarned not to go there. In this story Jesus answers the questions; what happens when a person goes to hell? What kind of place is hell? What kind of person goes to hell? Why does anyone go to hell? Truthfully, any kind of person can! Equal opportunity is the rule of the day for both heaven & hell.

HELL HAS BEEN CALLED THE FORGOTTEN DOCTRINE

You could say that many of America's pulpits have "Frozen out" the doctrine of hell. Friend let me assure you that for me, preaching or writing about hell is hard. There have been many times when I felt an onslaught from the corridors of hell against my very soul; satanic harassment for daring to lift the lid on a subject Satan doesn’t want people to think about. Now personally I don’t believe we should see Christianity as a fire escape. I also don’t believe many people have ever gotten saved because some preacher scared them. I just don’t think that’s human nature. Maybe I’m wrong about that, I don’t know.

The purpose of this message isn’t to try to convince you hell is real because if you don’t believe in hell I doubt if anything I say will change your mind. One of the reasons speaking or writing about hell is tough for me is I know some people that have probably gone there. Having said all that, I might add, if I thought I could scare anyone from hell to heaven, I would.

If we read the New Testament we’ll find that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. Most of what we know about hell comes straight from the lips of our Lord. I find it interesting that for 2,000 years the Christian Church has always believed in hell. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox & Evangelicals have long united in saying that if a person dies having rejected Christ they will spend eternity in hell. Some have added things like purgatory but the basic truth remains that the Christian church has always believed & preached the reality of hell. Studies say 89% of Americans believe in heaven while 73% believe in hell. The number of believers has actually risen over the last twenty years.


The story Jesus tells in Luke 16:19-31 offers our best & clearest picture into the nature of hell. Because these are the words of Jesus, we must treat them with utmost respect because He speaks with divine authority. What He says can be trusted. First; Jesus tells us-

THERE IS NO CLASS DISTINCTION IN HELL!

This story is about two men, one was rich, and one was poor. The poor man lay daily at the rich man’s gate hoping to catch the crumbs that fell from his table. As happens sooner or later to everyone, both these men died. Irrespective of what their lot was in life, it was the rich man, the Bible says, who lifted up his eyes in Hell being in torment. It was the bag of bones, the beggar at that rich man's gate who had angels come to escort him to Heaven. The tables are being turned now. Here was a rich man who fed his body, yet his soul was lean. He provided for things temporal & ignored that which was eternal & spiritual. But there is a great truth in this: the destination of these two souls was determined before the grave. Eternal destinies are fixed at the moment of death & can’t be changed nor can the situation in hell be changed.

I don't know why this beggar had become a beggar & become so poor. I do know that this rich man was religious, and that is a warning for many religious folk who don't have faith in Christ and are not born again. If you read this story you will find out that it was the love of money that took the rich man to Hell.


One thing is for certain: this beggar, with the little he had of this life's goods, had his eyes on God & the things that matter. It was obviously well with his soul because when he died he went straight to heaven.

In Hell Abraham called the rich man “Son.” Now that is frightening. He was a son of Abraham! He was religious, that means he was a Jew. He was among the people that God had chosen ethnically to be a light to the world. Yet his ethnic origin did not guarantee him a place in Heaven. That principle still holds true. God has no grandchildren - meaning He has only children. You have to deal with God yourself. You don't get to Heaven because your mother or your father is saved, or your grandpa was saved, or granny - no! It's something you must deal with. Here was a man who was secure in his religiosity, & yet he ended up in Hell.

None of the distinctions we make in this life are made in Hell. The only distinction is those who have faith in Christ & are born again, & those who are not. Jesus taught that those who enter Hell will experience never-ending torment. This is Jesus’ story. These are Jesus’ words. In verse 23, this rich man was able to see the beggar Lazarus in Abraham's bosom in paradise. People will be able to see in eternity, whether in Heaven or in Hell.

Verse 24 says the rich man spoke. People will have speech in Hell. He is in torment it says, meaning he’s experiencing pain. His senses are alert in Hell. Verse 24, he's thirsting in Hell, so much so that he asks that the beggar be allowed to dip his finger in water & cool his tongue, but the answer is no! This teaches us that mercy is only before the grave. The rich man had sinned away his day of mercy and now it’s too late. If he had felt his need for water when he was on earth, he would have gotten it, for the Lord Jesus said:

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Verse 25 shows that the rich man had his memory in Hell, for Abraham told him to remember the opportunities he had in his lifetime. Even in hell the rich man could see, hear, feel, recognize, speak, reflect, plead, suffer & think ahead. But there was one thing he couldn’t do—he couldn’t get out of hell.

We often hear at funeral services that there are no pockets in a shroud. An individual won’t take their bank account, golf clubs, or Mercedes-Benz to the grave.Our holdings in life are on very short tenure. Death strips them all away. What you don't so often hear is that people will, according to the Word of God; take their memory beyond the grave. Son, remember - that's a frightening prospect, and yet it's so real. God will cause folk in hell to remember those golden opportunities. In hell a man's memory will be his accuser, witness, judge & jury.If the sensual torments of Hell were not enough pain, those mental torments surely will be enough for all eternity!

There will be great loss in Hell. This rich man was separated from his five brethren, so much so that he wants to warn them. But it’s a one-way ticket to Hell. Those who go in do not come out. It’s a place of confinement where the doors only swing one way. There is a great gulf fixed. Abraham told him, those in Hell cannot pass to Heaven, and those in Heaven - not that they would want to - but if they could help those in Hell, they cannot pass over there - it's one way.

If only he’d cried out to God when he was alive; “Lord, save me! Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” like the dying thief did. If he had prayed these same prayers, not to a man like Abraham, but to the living God, he would have been heard!

IT JUST MIGHT BE THAT THE GREATEST PRAYER MEETING IN THE UNIVERSE RIGHT NOW ISN’T ON EARTH-BUT IN HELL!

But they're all unanswered prayers, because they're praying when it's too late! This former rich man was desperate that other people not join him in hell. If a person in hell could speak to those on earth, he’d be a million times a better preacher than any TV evangelist.

The rich man said to Abraham:, send Lazarus back to warn my five brethren that they don't come to this place. What a cry from Hell. But Abraham said no, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. Nowadays that simply translates--we have the word of God, what more do they need? We have the Christ of God telling us, the living Lord Jesus in whom none could find a fault, who died for our sins and rose again the third day to prove who He was. He's telling us that hell isn’t’ a joke, but a real place. What more do we need?

A man once asked me; “Do you believe a loving holy God could put a person in hell & burn them there forever & justify Himself in doing so?”

SOME PEOPLE DON’T BELIEVE IN HELL BECAUSE THEY FEEL GOD WOULDN’T KEEP PEOPLE THERE FOR ALL ETERNITY.

Even some well respected Bible scholars have come up with something called annihilation ism; the unsaved are at some point incinerated by God & simply cease to exist. They feel that to espouse the idea of an eternal hell makes God look too vindictive. But God is the only reliable source we have & He uses words like, smoke, fire, burning, torment, bottomless pit, wrath, weeping, wailing, gnashing teeth, unquenchable fire, eternal fire, the second death, damnation, furnace of fire, blackness, darkness & burning sulfur. I’d like to say something different, but these words, images & symbols don’t sound like annihilation to me.


Let me use an illustration that might shed some light on the subject of an eternal hell. First of all this is God’s word, God’s idea & God’s plan. With what God can do in mind, let’s look at what man can do. If a person is convicted of cold blooded murder or murder in the First degree, in many states they are given the death penalty. Now when that person is put to death, would their actions not be eternal for that individual? When they kill the person is it not with the complete understanding that it’s being done for all eternity? They aren’t put to death for a period of time, & then brought back. Man has imposed on man an eternal punishment. That’s not so strange is it?


Some people don’t believe in hell because using their own logic they feel no sin or infraction of God’s law could be serious enough to put a person in a place like hell forever. If the average person lives to about eighty, they couldn’t possibly do enough in those eighty years to justify being punished forever. This- to them doesn’t make sense. But we have to leave it up to God to decide what is serious & what’s not. His Word clearly presents the fact that in the eyes of God, to reject His Son’s death on the cross as their substitute is to commit the greatest sin against Him that is possible. In God’s eyes this is an outrage. This is the sin of all sins; to reject what His Son has done for us. There will be sixteen year old kids in hell; maybe younger. IMHO, if the age of accountability was 12 in Jesus’ day, in our day of enlightenment, wouldn’t it be more like 10?

Look at it another way. Man doesn’t punish man for his crimes on the basis of how long it took to commit the crime. It’s not the amount of time it took to pull off the crime; it’s the severity of the crime. Let’s say a man plans to crack a safe. He takes months & months to plan his crime & then he takes several hours to sit & work on opening the safe. Maybe in all it took him 24 hours to finish the job. When this safe cracker is caught, in all probability, depending on all the circumstances, he’ll get a few years in prison which might be reduced to no more than several months.


Down the street from this crook, another man picks up a gun & kills a person in a fraction of a second. When these two men get to court will the judge ask how long it took to commit these crimes & hand down punishment based on that? No! He will mete out punishment based on the nature & seriousness of the crime. So as we’ve said, a person will go to hell not according to any timeline of their sins but because of the seriousness of the infraction in God’s eyes. And rejecting Christ as Savior is a “high crime” in God’s sight.

Some people believe Hell is on earth. But, if you want to see Hell on earth come with me now to Calvary. Come with me to the cross where Jesus is hanging on nails. He has been rejected as the Jewish Messiah, & put to death. He's dying the death of every man. But look at that scene & tell me it's not Hell on earth! The Bible says Hell is a place of outer darkness, & for three hours on the cross the Bible records that there was a darkness that covered the whole land, a supernatural darkness. Jesus was experiencing the wrath of God for our sins. The Bible says that Hell is a place of weeping, wailing, & gnashing of teeth. Jesus cried from the cross: 'I thirst'. We've seen the rich man thirsting in Hell. Now we see Jesus there on the cross crying I thirst. Is it not Hell He's going through? The Bible says that Hell is a place of separation from God. Listen very carefully as Jesus cries: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ He’s being separated from God because God is laying on Him the sins & iniquities of us all.

Jesus is undergoing our Hell! It’s as if Hell has been put into His bosom. That's why Isaiah says His soul was made an offering for sin. That's why Jesus is letting us see this documentary, this glimpse into the awful, real, literal place called hell.

THE LAKE OF FIRE

I must confess that the following words are so gruesome they are hard for me to write. Almost unbearable! In Revelation 20:11-15, we discover the final destination of all who will not accept Christ as Savior & Lord. Think about it-A lake of fire! I'm deeply humbled here for I'm undertaking to describe something that essentially defies description. I submit that the following are the most terrible words in the Bible;

If anyone’s name isn’t found written in the book of life, he is thrown into the lake of fire.

What would a lake of fire be like? It’s a lake so large you can’t see to the other side. A lake filled with fire & burning smoke. The roar of the hot fire never stops & the smoke ascends forever. Into that lake the unsaved dead are tossed one by one, screaming, pleading, begging for mercy. But it’s too late. Too late for repentance. Too late for remorse. Too late to give your heart to Jesus. That day is long past.

DEATH WITHOUT DEATH

If you are there that day you’ll be thrown headfirst into the lake. The heat will be unbearable. First scorching your skin, then turning it black, then baking your organs, & enveloping your head. You inhale the awful smoke praying to die but you can’t. As the flames blacken your body you feel such pain no words can describe it. Worse & worse it becomes until you reach the moment of death but you can’t die. Frantically you swim for shore but there is no shore. Only wave after wave of hot sulfur washing over your charred body. You are lost-eternally, hopelessly, terribly, consciously lost. You curse God but it does no good. You raise a bloody, blackened fist & the sulfur washes over it producing a soundless scream of agony.


“Oh Jesus” you pray but no one answers. How did this happen? How could it have ended this way? On & on you swim burning but not consumed, tortured with no relief, hoping for rescue but no one comes to your aide.


This is the second death. It’s the final destination of those who don’t know Jesus Christ.

If someone objects to my description I assure you I mean no harm or offense to anyone. Jesus certainly never hesitated to bring up the subject of hell & expound on it & He’s never lead us wrong. I believe the lake of Fire is real & I’m sure it’s worse, far worse than my ability to portray it.

The other day I passed a funeral procession headed to the cemetery. The thought hit me; “I’ve conducted plenty of funerals. Someday I’ll be in the hearse." My day is coming...so is yours. The Bible says- Man is destined to die once, & after that to face judgment. One day we’ll be in the hearse. What will happen then? The way to heaven is as narrow as the cross. Only those who trust Jesus Christ as savior will enter the gates of heaven.

There are really only two possibilities regarding hell: either it’s real or it isn’t. Nothing I could say would change it either way.To deny hell belittles sin & would cause us to wonder what Jesus died to save us from. An atheist was asked what happens when we die. He said, “Nothing. Our bodies are buried & our soul dissolves into nothingness.”

Most people would say that leaves a haunting question that lingers in the mind; What if he’s wrong? Isaiah 14:9 says;-- 

The denizens of hell crowd to meet you as you enter their domain. World leaders & earth mightiest kings, long dead are there to see you.--Living Bible

Friend, the real point of the whole thing is- you & I don't want to miss heaven, wouldn't you agree? If you intend to go the heaven you need to do something about it now if you haven’t already.

You & I will live forever somewhere! Where will it be? The joy of heaven or the unending misery of hell?


Blessings,


John

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Avoiding Burnout!

By John Stallings


A lady had a small son named Jason.

When he was 7, she sent him off to school one day and a little while later there was a knock at the door. She opened the door and it was Jason. She said “Jason, what are you doing here?”

He said, “I've quit school!”
"She said, “Why have you quit school?”
He said, "Well, school is too long, it’s too hard, and it’s boring too.”
She said, “Jason, you’ve just described life, get back on the bus!”

To me that’s funny in a cute sort of way but more importantly it underscores the fact that we’re living in a world where even the very young are becoming fidgety, restless and jaded.

Pressure and stress are far greater than they were in times past and some of it stems from the many more opportunities that are available thanks to modern technology.

BURNOUT/RUNNING ON EMPTY

Burnout as a concept creeped into our lexicon back during the Second World War. Battle fatigue became a common malady. It resulted from the prolonged stress of being on the front lines of battle without relief. The officers soon learned that they had to pull their personnel back and give them some relief, some R & R in order for them to be effective in future battles.

Today a much heard term is career burnout. It describes a very similar syndrome. If you feel that you're going into battle everyday as you go to your job, you may be burning out. You're frustrated because life isn't fun anymore. You drag yourself home each day, unable to enjoy your family because you're emotionally depleted and physically exhausted. You're in the process of being burned out.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “clergy burnout.” The number of men and women leaving the ministry on an almost daily basis is appalling. This is one of the real issues in the church today.

“Burn-out” is an eighties/ninety’s term for “growing weary. “Compassion fatigue” is the spiritual term.”

Not to trivialize the situation, but burnout is often more- “disillusionment than exhaustion,” and more “discouragement than fatigue.” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Burnout is a human response to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest, and may take months or years to manifest. Burnout is a demon born of the society and times we live in and our ongoing struggle to invest our lives with meaning. Burnout isn’t a condition that gets better by being ignored, nor is it any kind of disgrace. On the contrary, it’s a problem born of good intentions.

What exactly is burnout? It’s defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration."

A burned-out light bulb doesn’t produce light. Neither does a burned-out Christian! God promises that you and I will reap the harvest if we just don’t burn out.

Do God's faithful people ever tire of doing good? Apparently so. I say that because Paul addresses this very issue in Galatians.

Listen to Paul…

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we will reap if we faint not. Gal. 6:9

As I said, burnout in a Christian is also called compassion fatigue. It's well doer's burnout. It happens sometimes when a very dedicated, committed disciple of Jesus suddenly wakes up and realized he's/she's tired - tired of giving, tired of doing, tired of serving. He finds that the joy of service is gone.

Apparently the Apostle realized that it’s possible for the "heart" to go out of our service and perhaps cause us to give up and quit.

I. THOSE WHO MUST BE ON GUARD FOR BURNOUT…

A. Any Workers in God’s kingdom can get weary.

This passage wasn't addressed to a select few. It went out to multiple churches in Galatia.

Preachers Sunday school teachers, Missionaries, those with gifts of serving, and others are susceptible to this. It happens to all kinds of people concerned for the work of the Lord.

B. Parents sometimes get weary.

I read about a woman who telephoned a friend and asked how she was feeling. "Terrible," came the reply over the wire. "My head's splitting and my back and legs are killing me. The house is a mess, and the kids are simply driving me crazy." Very sympathetically the caller said, "Listen, go and lie down, I'll come over right away and cook lunch for you, clean up the house, and take care of the children while you get some rest. By the way, how is Sam?"
"Sam?" the complaining housewife gasped. "I have no husband named Sam."
"My heavens," exclaimed the first woman, "I must have dialed the wrong number."
There was a long pause. "Are you still coming over?" the mother asked hopefully.

Those of us with our children raised are prone to say to those with little ones, "Enjoy it, 'cause it'll be over sooner than you think." We may have forgotten that it doesn't look that way when you still have two in diapers or a house full of teenagers!

C. Those who have served a long time get tired.

Length of service doesn't always make us more faithful. We’re seeing more and more husbands/wives desert their mates. Yes, it happens in the faith, too.

When we’re discouraged our motivation for completing a task dwindles!

I've shared this personal experience more than once but it's, to me extremely instructional.

My father was in nursing homes the last six years of his life. I dearly loved him and he loved me. But after a year of going to visit with him almost every day, I began to lag.

For a couple of years of that time I had to drive over a hundred miles one way to visit with him but even during that time we “bent over backwards” to see him often. It was a labor of love. I knew in my heart of hearts I didn’t have to go so often but I wanted to. The fact that on many of those visits I knew he didn’t know we were there didn’t matter because I wanted to see him, I needed to see him.

Sometimes we can see others making mistakes and unwise decisions, and even give them good sound advice but when it comes to internalizing the same truth for ourselves we have a problem being objective.

One day I realized I was burning out, burning out- of all things while doing something good, something noble. Burnout leaves clues, like pulling up to “McDonald’s -To Go” window and trying to make a bank deposit. It's bad enough when you say to the person behind the mike, "Can I get this to go?"

In order to survive I had to begin to pace myself. I had many other responsibilities.Mainly I was pastoring a church. I had the desire, but I’d lost heart, temporarily. We adjusted our schedules and our visits and got some rest and slowly our “heart” came back. I had to deal with my mother too because she was laboring under the same compulsion that we were. We were foolishly barreling down the track trying to out-run each other.

By the grace of God we did what we had to do, acknowledging that we were only human and in the final analysis everyone was the better for it. The bottom line was, we were all on a “self-imposed” treadmill.

In times like these the Devil will try to guilt you. He’ll climb up on your back and ride you and use your ears for stirrups if you’ll allow it. He wants to either “freeze you,” or “fry you,” in to doing too much or too little. Don’t allow it!

D. Those who have seen few results can feel the weariness in well-doing.

We are a results oriented society. When you fish, you produce the stringer of trophies. When you hunt, you save the antlers. When you golf, you have your scorecards. Service to the Lord isn't always that easy to measure as far as results.

JOSHUA

When Joshua sent the soldiers to Ai after Jericho, they thought the victory would come easily. When the men of Ai routed them, the Bible says in Joshua 7: 5,

The hearts of the people melted, and became as water.”

They were depressed. They lost heart.

Have you ever became depressed over something and said, “Oh, what’s the use anyway?” Have you ever said, “I use to really care. Now I don’t care whether I do it or not?”

We always give up in our hearts before we give up in actions! The Bible teaches in Proverbs 23: 7,“ For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

When we “lose heart” we are in danger of quitting. Jesus taught us in Luke 18: 1 not to “lose heart” in our prayers, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

A wealthy woman called the manager of a concert hall. She asked, “Have you found a diamond pendant? I think I lost it in your building last night.”
The manager said, “No, we haven’t found it, but we will look. Please hold the line.”
After several minutes of searching someone found the diamond.
The manager came back on the line and said, “I’ve got good news. We found your pendant . . . Hello? . . . Hello?”
The woman became weary of waiting and had hung up.
The diamond was never claimed.

Whatever your situation : THE ANSWER IS ON THE WAY . . DON’T HANG UP!

It can happen when we grow weary, thinking that non-visible results mean no results.

E. Those effected by the lethargy of others are candidates for this problem of weariness.

Cynicism is a danger to those who work next to people who don't see the real issues and/or don't care. Cynicism is an outlook that says, "Things are never going to work out. It will always be like this," etc.

F. Those experiencing temporary failures can feel weary.

Remember Elijah under the Juniper tree saying- "Lord, just kill me!" Even though the great victory on Mt. Carmel was a decisive blow to the idolatry in Elijah's day, when Jezebel didn't cow to it, Elijah melted in discouragement.

The failure was only temporary, but it took God a while to convince Elijah of it.

G. Those who’re rejected sometimes want to quit.

Rejection hurts! When you plow your life and time into someone and they turn, not only against what you teach, but against you personally, the temptation is to say, "Never again will I put that much into another human being!"

If you’ve lived very long you understand that people will “flip” on you.

Samuel the prophet experienced this. The Israelites rejected his clear, correct teaching and clamored for a king. He got down-in-the-mouth -and that's a bad place for a prophet to be! God finally told him that they hadn't rejected him [Samuel] but they had rejected Him [God.] It's hard not to get the two confused, though.

H. Those who are lonely can become weary in well-doing.

When God came to Elijah under the Juniper tree he asked him what was wrong. He said,

"I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

Doing God's work can have some lonely times.

Sometimes, in order to follow God, you and I must do it alone. It hurts to think that you're going the right way, yet everyone else thinks you’re crazy! Remember Noah?

I. The criticized and mocked can become weary.

Personal criticism always hurts. Sometimes it’s good for us, but sometimes it is unfounded and wrong.

In 1923, as Russian-born engineer Vladimir Zworykin worked on his latest invention, he was told to "spend your time on something more useful." But Zworykin didn't -- and in 1929 he obtained the first patent for his invention, color television.

Among his many achievements, Zworykin also helped perfect the electron microscope and other devices that greatly advanced medical and biological research.

He retired as director of electronic research for RCA in 1954, and in 1966 was awarded the National Medal of Science. Yet criticism marked almost all the milestones of his journey.

J. Those who get caught up in comparisons set themselves up for weariness in well doing.

This sometimes happens to small church pastors. Thousands of them are quitting. Why? It's because the big church is being held up as the standard of success. Little churches are viewed as hokey and anemic. They're on the sick list. They're useless if you listen to some folk. They'd be better off put out of their misery.

For a man who sacrifices the way many small church ministers must sacrifice in order to do the work (I’ve been there) this becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back. I can remember a time when any work for God was considered valid. The man who had the courage to go out on his own and raise up a congregation from nothing had the admiration of the entire body of Christ. Today that isn’t necessarily the case.

Preachers used to be respected by society. Their work was viewed as essential for the good of the community. Today many are held up as objects of scorn and ridicule, or made to look like idiots by the media. [When was the last time you heard a media story about the selfless deeds of some preacher? When was the last time you heard of some scandal involving a preacher?] Our young people aren't going into the ministry today like they have in the past. These are some of the reasons why.

K. Those who feel bored can burnout.

What I refer to here is the-same-old-same-old, day after day, week after week, year after year.

February 2, 1985, during the Daytona 500 Auto Race, the $250,000 car driven by professional driver Donnie Allison was only on its third lap when it rolled to a stop on the infield side of the track. Nothing was mechanically wrong with the car . . . neither was there anything wrong with the driver.

What was the problem? In all the hustle and bustle of doing everything that had to be done to prepare the car for the race . . . somebody forgot to make sure there was fuel in the car. IT WAS OUT OF GAS!

The skill of the driver and the potential of the car were completely nullified.. . simply because somebody forgot to put gas in the car.

In life, regardless of our “skill” and “potential,” if we fail to insure that we have the proper amount of “Spiritual Gas” in our Spiritual tank, WE’LL  SIMPLY RUN OUT OF GAS!

IT’S SO EASY TO QUIT . . . All we have to do is keep going until we’re “running on empty!” Then, when the fuel gauge reads empty . . . we simply quit!

We go from “giving out” to “giving up!”
Cars that aren’t refueled will run out of gas.
Wells that aren’t replenished will run out of water.
Batteries that aren’t recharged lose their power.

We aren’t any different. A Christian that is not refueled, replenished, and recharged will burn out.

L. Those experiencing poor health.

As we grow older we must adjust to ailments that limit our capacity. In the process, we must also adjust our expectations of ourselves.

For many years in evangelistic work we practically lived in our car. We’d close a three or four week revival on Sunday night and then drive a thousand miles or more and start another meeting on Wednesday. Once in my early twenties, I’d spent close to a year in California preaching. We were so anxious to get back home to Florida that I drove three days and nights without sleeping. This is craziness! Then we rented a motel room and went to bed and I couldn’t sleep.

Obviously I couldn’t do anything remotely akin to that now. If we don’t slow down a little and act our age, we’ll pay the consequences in many ways. When you and I “burn the candle at both ends,” we’re not as “bright as we think.”

HOW DO WE AVOID BURNOUT?

Here are five suggestions…

1. REST

Listen to Exodus 20: 8-10:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The command to rest is just as valid as the command to work!

A “Workaholic” on a street corner held a sign: “Will work for the fun of it!” Some of us with some age on us have to ask ourselves how much fun we can stand.

Although God wants us to enjoy our work . . . He also wants us to enjoy our rest!

2: CUT YOUR WORKLOAD

Listen to Hebrews 12: 1:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

In the old west cowboys would use branding irons to brand cattle. Sometimes they’d put too many in the fire and the fire would go out, thus, our modern day term,- too many irons in the fire! Too many “little things” will “pull us down!”

Sea-going ships have to be brought into dry dock to clean off the barnacles. A barnacle is a small crustacean that grows on the hull of the ship. It’s not big enough by itself to cause the ship any problems. However, when enough of them attached themselves to the hull, it causes so much drag that the ship is actually slowed down and has to be brought into dry dock to be cleaned.

Song of Solomon 2: 15, …The little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

If we don’t let go of something we will eventually let go of everything… one way or another.


3: LOOSEN UP YOUR SCHEDULE A LITTLE BIT.

You and I must make every effort to live one day at a time.

Matthew 6: 34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

We are not in a sprint . . . we are in a marathon!

4: STAY FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.

Ephesians 5: 18: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Usually, when a person burns out, he has been trying to live the Christian life by the flesh rather than by the Spirit of God! The disciples didn’t acquire the power they needed even after Jesus was raised from the dead. You’ll remember they were still cowering behind closed doors. It was after Pentecost where they were filled with the Holy Spirit that they were empowered to turn the world upside down.

 5. RENEW YOUR VISION

Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29: 18:

Renowned scientist Albert Einstein was on a train.
The conductor asked to see his ticket. Einstein couldn’t find it.
The conductor assured him it would be okay, he could mail him the ticket when he found it.
Einstein told the conductor that it wouldn’t be okay . . . He needed the ticket to know where he was going! [Did the grand old man have a “Senior moment?]

Sometimes we need things to renew our vision of where we are going!

How do we prevent burn out??

1: Rest from your labor.
2: Reduce your workload.
3: Regulate your schedule.
4: Refuel your spirit.
5: Renew your vision.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.-Isaiah 40:31


Blessings,


John

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pulling Down Strongholds

By: John Stallings

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds .

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;-2 Cor. 10:3-5

Another version says…

We live in the world, but we do not fight in the same way the world fights. We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strongholds. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. -- New International Version

In the verses above, Paul provides the key to victory in the area where many Christians suffer constant defeat; the battle for the mind. He reminds us that our weapons aren’t carnal but spiritual. These weapons include the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), prayer (Ephesians 6:18) and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

As we read this passage there are certain words that seem important, words like weapons, strongholds, warfare. Paul is literally transporting us into the battlefield. We can hear the guns firing, cannons roaring, tanks roaming. And the reason is we are in the midst of the real battle. And this battle seeks prisoners. This battle is in the mind, and the prisoner, the devil hopes, is you.

 Satan desires to control our thought life. He knows that if he can capture our minds, he can steer our hearts.

There’s a battle going on, a fierce battle, although the battlefield is relatively small. It’s only about six inches wide, that battleground. It’s the space between your ears. Yes, your mind, a Christian’s mind, is the place where the warfare is waging, and you are not exempt. There are various forces at work, seeking to take control of your mind. The devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh are conspiring to take your mind captive. Will you let them? Are you going to surrender those six inches of space to the enemy, or, instead, will you claim them for your rightful master, our Lord Jesus Christ? Make no mistake, every Christian is called to active duty in “The Battle for the Mind.”

HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?

If Satan can control your mind, he has you. So many times Christians give up their mind to Satan’s control. When you give up your mind to Satan, you’ll live a defeated life.  
 We need to accurately identify our enemy. We aren’t fighting our mother-in-law or the folks at our church, or the church down the street. We’re fighting Satan.

 A group of archaeologist went to a tropical rain forest to search for artifacts.

In the process of searching one man found what appeared to be a doorway. Upon further investigation they discovered the remnants of an entire village that lived there centuries ago.

As they searched they found a wall-like fort, bowls, utensils, a mathematics system and a very intellectual people. The question became, why these people had vanished off the face of the earth.

Then the archaeologists discovered their weapons, which were spears, and daggers.

Then they discovered their enemies and noted they were more advanced in the area of weaponry. Their enemy’s dominate weapon was the bow and arrow.

 Because their enemy had more proficient weaponry, this highly intelligent, strong people ultimately became extinct.

Think about this; the weapons we are using are God’s and they have the power to  destroy the enemy’s strongholds.


Our enemy isn’t clothed in flesh but has ensconced himself in high places to war against us.

The battle for the mind is the most deadly of all the battles we’ll fight because it’s a war between God and Satan on the battleground of our mind.

Satan’s desire is to conquer our thought life and then make it a citadel from which to war against God.  A  Backslidden Christian is artillery in the hands of Satan aimed at the heart of God.

The devil wants to gain control of our mind to pull us away from God. Let’s face it; none of us is powerful enough within ourselves to be victorious over Satan. He laughs at our schemes and ridicules our organizations.

As we see in scripture, we’re not only responsible for our actions but also for our thoughts.

Listen to Acts 8:22
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Education and legislation won’t win the battle. If we were placed in a perfect environment our problems still wouldn’t be over.

Remember Adam and Eve? They got in trouble in the most perfect place on earth because Satan messed with their minds and they were deceived. How are we going to pull down high things like arrogance, ignorance, despair, bitterness, pride and anger? Certainly not with carnal weapons.

At Calvary Jesus dropped a nuclear bomb on the devil and won the victory for us all but we still have to fight the battle for our mind by keeping our hearts and thoughts centered on Christ.

Paul admonishes us in Romans 12:2,

Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Consider the following verses;

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Phil.4:7

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Romans 8:6

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Romans 8:7


And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; Eph.4:23

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Tim. 1:7


Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
1 Peter 1:13


STRONGHOLDS

What does Paul mean when he speaks of Strongholds? What would a stronghold be?

According to the dictionary, a stronghold is- to harden or to make hard. This is a military term that speaks of entrenchment, a fortress, a piece of land for a base of operations.

 A stronghold is anything that Satan can use to control your life. A stronghold is where you give ground to Satan in some area of your life, and that ground given him is going be detrimental to your spiritual life.

So many Christians allow Satan to erect strongholds of fear, doubt, unbelief, greed, lust, anger, addictions and the list goes on and on. Maybe someone hurt you and you just won’t release it, and you allow Satan to build a stronghold of bitterness in your life. 


ANOTHER WAY TO VIEW STRONGHOLDS

A stronghold is an area of repeated failure in your life.

Maybe in many areas we’ve been victorious but in the area of the stronghold, time and again we’ve been defeated. Many strongholds become so powerfully entrenched in our minds that they become like military forts which are impregnable.

If you examine your life and see something that keeps cropping up, an area where in spite of your best efforts you’ve failed, it’s almost certainly a stronghold, or becoming one.

Put another way, if you’ve tried to be victorious in an area and can’t, if you seem to have lost control of a behavior or tried unsuccessfully to shake a habit, you’re dealing with a  Stronghold.


HOW DOES AN INDIVIDUAL GET A STRONGHOLD?

Great question.

Strongholds do not appear in our lives overnight, they are built stone by stone as we reinforce bad thoughts and allow them space in our minds. In the same way they have to be dismantled, one by one.

A stronghold begins like any other temptation, as a THOUGHT. Next the thought is ENTERTAINED. Then the thought is RECEIVED, and finally ACTED on. At this point, this “thing” becomes HABITUAL. It becomes a stronghold.

There’s the…

THOUGHT,
THE THOUGHT IS ENTERTAINED,
THE THOUGHT IS RECEIVED,
THE THOUGHT IS ACTED ON, AND….
A HABIT IS ESTABLISHED.
IF NOT DEALT WITH, A STRONGHOLD DEVELOPS.

You received a thought, acted on it and got a stronghold.

So we can have these strongholds, habits, thought patterns and complexes that have been built in our minds over many years. They are built one thought at a time and become very powerful as they dominate the landscape of our thinking and feelings. The world and its systems continue to build forts in our lives through a constant stream of thoughts, ideas and arguments that infiltrate our minds through the gates of our senses. We will never win the battle against these strongholds until we stop the flow of misinformation to our minds.

 “NIP IT IN THE BUD!!”

You may remember the old Andy Griffith Show that ran decades ago. One of the characters who made the show, at least to me, was Barney Fife. Old Barn was always off on one tangent or another. You may remember, Barney was allowed to carry a gun but was only given one bullet- which he kept in his shirt pocket.

One of the funniest episodes on the show was when Barney got strung out about “nipping things in the bud.” He went all over town with this sage piece of wisdom telling people “You gotta nip it...You gotta nip it in the bud.”

When Barney got a thought in his noggin it would take a dynamite charge to change it.

However it turns out that this simple thought about nipping things in the bud, not allowing wrong thoughts to take root,
Is very good advice.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER

Imagine that you are standing on a landing strip with a couple of hundred planes circling above. In this hypothesis, the landing strip is your mind and the planes overhead, asking permission from you to land, are thoughts.

My grandmother used to say, “You can’t keep the birds from circling over your head but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” How true!

We are the air traffic controller of our mind and no thought can land unless we give it permission. You and I can either say yes or no to the thought.

Again, we can’t stop the thoughts from coming but we have the power, through an act of our WILL to deny them permission to land.

Keep this simple truth in mind; we can’t keep disturbing or even unholy thoughts from asking permission to land- that will only happen when we get to heaven. BUT we can deny them permission to land.

Let’s continue drilling down into this subject. We have…

FIVE GOD-GIVEN SENSES

These senses are wonderful God- given windows to the world. They are…Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch.

There is good news and bad news here. If we use the five senses the way God wants us to use them, they bring blessing to our lives. If on the other hand we allow Satan & his world system to Hi-Jack these senses, calamity can’t be far behind.

WHY IS TEMPTATION SO STRONG? Here’s the answer. WE ALREADY HAVE DESIRES!

 Satan’s no fool so he rides on the natural desires already in place within us, placed there by God.

If we satisfy God-given desires God’s way there will be good results -but if we satisfy them the devil’s way, the trouble begins. Satan exploits our God given appetites.

A FEW EXAMPLES.

When I was a kid, I had an all consuming desire to be a “real masculine guy.” In modern lingo we might call it a desire to be a “macho man.” I believe God placed this desire in my heart. I didn’t have the desire to be a rough-neck or a rabble-rouser or tough guy, just a real manly guy, in walk, talk, attire and attitude.

Now in those days there was a picture I kept seeing just about everywhere I went. It was a man sitting on a beautiful horse with snowcapped mountains behind him, a great hat on his head and a “cool stash.” I’d see this guy on billboards, in magazines and well just about everywhere you could put a large picture up. I saw this guy’s picture for years in practically every state in the union.

Did I mention that this dude always had a cigarette between his fingers? Oh yeah, the ever present cigarette being puffed on by this “man’s man.” I’ll bet you know who I’m referring to don’t you? Yes, it was “The Marlboro Man.

I’ve been told that the man who modeled for this picture actually was a smoker and died of lung cancer in his mid forties. The greater point here is that Satan knew exactly what kind of man to put on that horse. His scheme was to show that picture to millions of young men like me and suggest to them what a “real man” looks like and how his look was enhanced by the cigarette between his fingers.

Thankfully the picture never influenced me to start smoking but from what I’ve read it was a highly successful campaign causing millions of men to pick up the habit of smoking.

Satan took that God-given desire in the hearts multitudes of young men to look masculine and spun it into encouragement to smoke.

At about the same time another campaign was going, riding on the desire in the hearts of young ladies to be feminine. This picture featured a beautiful young woman with an hour-glass figure holding a “Virginia Slim” between her fingers. I’ve also read that this picture which appeared world wide for years caused millions of young women to start smoking.

See why it’s so easy for Satan? He takes appetites that are already placed in us by God and rides on them. He can take the desire for sexual intimacy within the bounds of marriage which can give a couple a family of beautiful children and pervert it into a lust for pornographic images.

As we’ve already said, if we try to satisfy our desires Satan’s way it leads to chaos. But if we do it God’s way our lives are enriched.

Listen to what Paul says…
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Eph. 6:10-17

CHRIST’S TEMPTATION

Before Internet pornography, rampant materialism, and on-line gambling there was temptation. Even Jesus faced it, and in studying His example, we can learn a lot about being victors. 
The temptation of the Lord Jesus is one of 
the most interesting and informative scenes in all of 
the life of the Christ. It is helpful for 
us to remember the setting of this temptation of 
Jesus. It came after His baptism. Very often after 
the Baptism there is the
Battle with the devil. More 
than one young convert has learned that the baptismal
 
waters do not drown the devil.
Very soon after you 
come to Christ you’ll find yourself perhaps tempted 
as you have never been before by the devil. After the 
Dove comes the Devil. After the voice of the father 
from heaven comes the hiss of the serpent from hell.

It’s also helpful for us to understand the 
strategy that is involved here. Scripture
says that Jesus was "full of the spirit", and that He 
was led "by the Spirit into the wilderness." This 
lets us know that God had a particular strategy in 
mind in the temptation of the Lord.

One of the purposes of the temptation of Jesus is 
to display God's perfect 
man the Lord Jesus Christ. 
The Bible says that "Jesus was tempted in all
points 
like as we are, yet without sin
."
 Sometimes when they are building bridges or strengthening bridges, they will conduct stress tests. The purpose is not to cause the bridges to collapse, but to show that the bridges cannot be collapsed.

The purpose here is to demonstrate that Jesus 
 is the perfect Son of God and though He was hit 
with everything the devil had He didn’t yield. Jesus 
was God's perfect man. It is also intended to show 
you and me how we are to encounter the temptation of 
the devil and how we can have victory in our lives.

When you look at these temptations you will 
discover there is an appeal to the physical. He says, 
"Take these stones and turn them into bread." Jesus 
had not been eating for many days.
 The second temptation was the appeal to the spiritual. He said to Jesus, "Fall down and worship me." Think about this; Jesus was actually tempted to be a Satan worshipper. The third temptation was the appeal to the emotional. He said, "Throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple." 

The strategy of the devil has never changed. John 2:16, John talks about -the lust of the flesh--the physical, the lust of the eye--the emotional, and the pride of life--the spiritual.

When you and I are tempted we are always tempted 
in one of these three avenues. The devil has these three big
 moves on his chessboard and you and I
 need to be aware of that. The Bible tells us that we need to not be ignorant of his devices.
  
Sin begins with the lure and enticement.  It starts from within, it starts in the mind.  The mind is powerful and can cause us to rise up against all odds and go into battle.  It can cause to dream of things that others thought were impossible and make them come true.  But it is also in the mind’s eye that sin begins.

So you and I must take every thought captive.  Demolish the strongholds.    But you have to take the fight deep within you, back to the root, the very desire that began this temptation and fight it there.  A person does not just sin, they think about it first.

Paul understood the struggle.  In Romans 7, he cries out that the struggle is within and so often he fails.  He asks, “O wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of sin and death?”  His answer, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  He calls upon the Christians in Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of the mind.”  He tells them to “keep in step with the Spirit.”  The battle for the mind is the battle for the soul.  For the one who falls to sin, falls to death.

Do you know your triggers that happen before you sin?  Do you know what it is that pushes you over the edge?  Is it your anger?  Is a something visual?  Is it a place that you ought not to be?  Then don’t go there even in your mind.  Stop it before it happens and surrender yourself to God.

David didn’t walk away from the temptation after seeing Bathsheba taking a bath.  It started in his mind and he could have stopped it, but he didn’t and the cost was huge.  Do you really want to pay that cost?  Is the sin you’re thinking about worth it?

FIGHT SATAN AS JESUS DID, WITH THE WORD!

The Bible contains the antidote to the lies of the world, the flesh and the Devil. That is the only way we will win this part of the battle of the mind – by knowing the Scriptures and being able to wield the Sword of the Spirit. Without spending time in the Bible and under the teaching of a good church, you will never win the battle of the mind. And you will never win the battle of wits against the Devil unless you know the Word and know it well.
If you are diligent in searching the scriptures and you fill your mind with the Word instead of what the Devil has to say, the Holy Spirit will teach you and bring to your remembrance exactly what you need in order to win. But the Spirit can only bring to your remembrance what you have learned. (John 14:26)
Jesus said: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In other words, if we abide in His word that will prove that we are His followers then we shall know the Truth which will set us free. This promise does not belong or work for those who are not followers of Christ.

 The Truth is not going to be found in the platform of a political party or a history book or in our own emotions or thoughts. It’s only in the Word. Neither is it found in a superficial reading of the Word, but as we abide in the Word, we will discover the Truth which will make us free. This means spending time in the Word, meditating on it and being obedient to it.

Listening to a 30 minute sermon once a week is not going to set you free. Abiding means to 
remain constantly in and submerged in the Word! As we abide, remain, dwell, live and move in the Word, we will begin to really know the Truth and that will set us free.
So, in order to begin breaking down the strongholds, we need to immerse ourselves in the Word and be obedient to it. As the Word begins to contradict the arguments of the world, the flesh and the Devil and we believe and act on the Word, the strongholds will come tumbling down.

But remember, if we allow the world to rebuild and reinforce the strongholds faster than the Word can break them down we can’t be victors.

It would be wise to limit the access of the world into your mind and soak in the Word of God and you will begin to find victory in areas you never thought possible.

 I have seen folk in deep depression and watched how quoting the scriptures and the promises of God, sometimes for hours on end, have brought them out of the depths of despair.

 It works!


Blessings,


John



Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Tear Down This Wall"

By John Stallings


A very successful businessman was on a road trip with his wife.

 When they stopped for gas she got out for a moment & shortly thereafter the businessman saw his wife engaged in conversation with the male service attendant.

After they finished she got back in the car. As they drove away the husband asked about the guy his wife was talking to & learned that she’d dated him in high school.

Feeling cocky, her husband says to her, “I bet I know what you’re thinking. I bet you’re thinking that you’re pretty lucky that you married me, a very successful president of a mega-corporation & not a service station attendant.”

She said, “No, actually I was thinking that if I’d married him & not you, he’d be the president of a mega-corporation & you’d be working in this gas station.”

There is a sin that is hard to detect, & its results are deadly.

It has been around since before man.
It is no respecter of persons.
It can creep in at any stage of your life.
It is a sin over which most Christians stumble.
Believe it or not, this is the only sin that even our face can commit.
The sin-PRIDE

In 1981 I had the privilege of visiting the Republic of China with The Blackwood brothers Quartet.

I was privileged to speak in several major rallies all over the Far East. God was gracious to give us many souls during these days.

I was more impressed with the city of Hong Kong than any other place I visited in the Orient. We ate one meal that had 23 separate entrees.’ Seven of these entrees’ were desserts. Ugh! But I did learn some things on this adventure; The Cantonese cooks are the best.

I also learned that The Great Wall of China was started about four hundred years before Jesus was born & is the only man- made object visible from outer space.

The wall continued to be built on & off for about two thousand years. Today it stretches, though it has collapsed in many places, from the east coast of China all the way into the north-central part of the country.

The Chinese people built it to keep enemies from attacking & invading their country. To this day, the Great Wall is a great source of pride among the Chinese. Tourists come to see it. Historians study it, & scientists use it to study earthquakes.

But did you know that some historians believe the Great Wall-the pride of China-backfired on them? It may have protected China from attack, but it also isolated the nation from many good things. For centuries much of the progress & discoveries that benefited people in other parts of the world never reached China. A great nation became a backward nation of barbarians partly because the Great Wall kept progress from flowing into China.

PRIDE

That’s a lot like what pride does. Some folk act prideful because they think it protects them or makes them look better than others around them. Little do they know their pride makes it harder for God to help them, or other people for that matter.

On the other hand, humility opens the windows of blessing. Humility makes it easier for God to speak to us & help us & bless us. Pride builds a wall that keeps many good things out of our lives; humility opens a window that brings many good things in.

Perhaps the highlight of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency was on June 12, 1987 when he addressed a throng gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in what was then West Germany. In a speech that could be heard behind the Berlin Wall in Communist East Germany President Reagan said…..

“General Secretary, if you seek peace. If you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union & Eastern Europe, if you seek liberation; come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!!”

These emotion- filled words have been compared by many with President John F. Kennedy’s speech given twenty-four years earlier at the same place where Ronald Reagan threw out his challenge, when he declared; “Ich bin ein Berliner.”[I am a Berliner!]

Just two years & four months after President Reagan’s speech was delivered, the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Pride’s most dangerous aspect is that it builds walls between people. You could almost use the words pride & wall inter- changeably.

FOREBODING WALLS WE FACE

There are a multitude of walls we all must face, many of which can be overwhelming. There’s;

…Racism
…Sexism
…insensitivity in others
…Strife
…Hostility
…Grudges
…Addiction
…Stubbornness
…Unforgiveness
…PRIDE

HERE’S A PRIDE QUIZ;

Are you easily offended?
Does it irritate you when your faults are corrected?
When you make a mistake do you have a pocket full of excuses?
Do you find it hard to receive instructions?
Do you mind being told what to do?
Do you get upset when someone crosses your rights?
Do you ever seek council or advice?
Do you have a grateful spirit?

Forty years ago this summer, the first moon landing took place, Apollo 11. It was then that the first man set foot on the moon. Many of my readers will remember the man’s name; Neil Armstrong. You will no doubt remember his words when stepping onto the moon, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” There was another man on that trip & many will remember his name, Buzz Aldrin. Buzz was the 2nd guy on the first trip to the moon.

Later that year there was the 2nd trip to the moon, Apollo 12. I’m going to refresh your memory by giving you the name of the lead astronaut on the 2nd trip, Pete Conrad. I bet few people could give me the name of the 2nd guy on the 2nd trip. His name was Alan Bean, but almost nobody remembers him.

SILAS

Silas was the Alan Bean of the Book of Acts. Because he, like Alan Bean, was the 2nd guy on Paul’s 2nd missionary trip he gets sort of lost in the shuffle. Of course we know that Barnabas was the 2nd guy on the first trip, but the 2nd guy on the 2nd trip gets a little fuzzy. We don’t know too much about Silas.

What do we know about Silas? For one thing we know he’s called a “Fellow worker.” We’re first introduced to him in Acts 15, at the Jerusalem council-the first church convention if you will. The apostles & elders hash out a thorny situation about what to do with the Gentiles & they composed a letter to be sent out & chose two men to take it—“Leading men among the brothers.” One of these leading men was Silas. Later Silas is mentioned as a prophet & he “encouraged & strengthened the brothers with many words.”

When Paul & Barnabas had a bit of a falling out, Paul needs a good 2nd banana to travel with him, so he chooses Silas. There must have been something about Silas that caused both the church at Jerusalem & the apostle Paul to choose him for some important albeit unglamorous tasks. Maybe the words we’re looking for are “faithfulness” & “Humility.” In 1 Peter 5:12, Peter mentions Silas using his Latinized name, Silvanus, & calling him a “faithful brother.”

Sometimes Silas traveled with Paul & at other times Silas & Timothy traveled elsewhere; places like Philippi, Thessalonica, & Corinth. Faithful, humble, willing to take the lower part-that was Silas. Let’s move this story along.

So Silas goes with Paul on his second missionary trip. They go through Syria, Cilicia, Asia Minor where they pick up Timothy to join the group. Paul gets his Macedonian vision & now the little band heads over to northern Greece. First stop- Philippi. One thing we know is—Paul is Paul! If ever a man could have worn a T-shirt saying “Here comes trouble” it was he. As you well know Paul is “hung –up” on Jesus & can’t & won’t try to hide it [thank God.]

“ANOTHER FINE MESS”

So now Paul’s preaching gets him in trouble resulting in him & Silas being arrested, beaten & tossed into the slammer. These men are in all probability hanging up on a dank prison wall with their hands & feet in stocks.

What now? Try this guys; give up. It’s not worth it. Of course we know that’s untrue but you wonder if Silas ever wondered, “Maybe I should have stayed in Jerusalem.” I don’t know what was running through Silas’ mind on this occasion. We might ask ourselves what our thoughts would be in a mess like this. How do we react when trouble & hardship comes our way? Do we blame God or say, “I don’t deserve this, - After all God, I’m doing your work?” I suppose this is a temptation for all of us; to blame God & others for our difficulties. It seems that sinful flesh is-“The same yesterday today & forever.”

A GOOD TIME TO PRAY

Friend, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but I’ve learned when things are “all tied up in knots & wrapped around the axle” that’s a very good time to pray. When you can’t do anything & God is going to have to do everything, that’s another real good time to call on Him, am I right? Paul & Silas knew the same thing you & I know- that we have a heavenly Father who loves us. We can call upon the Lord in the day of trouble& expect to hear from Him. That’s what Silas did. At midnight, Paul & Silas prayed & sang songs to God. The only thing these two men of God had they could use were their tongues so they operated within the fullest extent of their liberty.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE STOCK MARKET

Paul & Silas never heard of the Stock Market but they were familiar with Stocks. The prayers & praises of these two men went up through the roof, moved through the clouds, shot through the Milky Way, scooted by Orion & the Pleiades & didn’t stop until they reached the throne room of heaven. Then God took their songs of worship & praise & sent them back down to earth in the form of an earthquake & the stocks fell off Paul & Silas the prison doors flew open. Then they probably sang a chorus of “Unchained melody.”

The jailor & his household were saved because of this miraculous jail-break but there was still work ahead for Paul & Silas, more towns to go to. “And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them & departed.—Acts 16:40

People can get spiritually “star struck,” & feel that if what they do for God isn’t evident to all, they’re wasting their time. The devil will tell us that we should never play second banana or be willing to play a humble role. But if the truth be told, God needs an army of Silases, fellow workers, faithful & humble, singing & praying & praising individuals who stay in there, not worrying about the accolades of men.

Isn’t it instructive that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem for His Triumphal Entry, when He made His grand entrance into the City of God, he didn’t come riding on a white stallion, wearing shining armor. That would have made Him look like a conquering military man.

No! Jesus made His grand entrance on a humble donkey. How great is that? No king in history ever rode into a conquered city on a donkey. That would be out of the question because it would be too humiliating. Other kings rode on prancing stallions or chariots in procession. Only Jesus rode a donkey. If you & I would be like Him, we should ask God to give us humility.

I close with a story from my life that after many years still troubles me. For years I had a minister friend who, though I loved him as a brother, I never truly understood.

To be frank, he was the kind of a person who always seemed to have an invisible wall up, through which, as far as I know, few ever passed. The wall was to me, unmistakably a wall consisting of fear, mistrust, & pride. The manifestation of this pride was that he’d never; under any condition, ever admit to any kind of failure. Out of 52 Sundays, I could usually count on a few “disaster Sundays,” either we got clobbered by the weather & the crowd was down, or I didn’t do as well as I felt I should in my preaching. Or maybe the church offerings were low.

This good brother never had a down Sunday to hear him tell it. He had an almost unbelievable mind-set. According to him, things in his life were always perfect. And to be candid, things did always seem to be going swimmingly for my friend. If I ever mentioned to him any problem I was going through, real or imaginary, he’d look at me & shake his head in wonderment. Every sermon he preached went great for him, every alter call was extremely productive; the sun was always shining, the birds always singing. This man never knew mediocrity.

Through the years of friendship, I would sometimes hear of reversals he was having, nothing of a moral nature but if I ever asked him about it the wall would go up & he’d put such a good face on things it made me feel I’d just listened to idle gossip.

I knew for a fact some of his children had gone through divorce but it wasn’t that different from what most men his age experience with their family. But he’d never mention it. I was pastoring a church in a distant town from my friend, & one day I heard through unimpeachable sources that the church he pastored had just filed bankruptcy. We spoke by phone but he never mentioned this & it was evident he was covering it up. By this time I was catching on that he had a problem facing reality. Do you think??

But I was older now & experienced enough that I was no longer going to be intimidated by his elusiveness, so in one of our next conversations I pinned him down about some of the things I’d been hearing. Still he hedged, never admitting to anything negative in his life.

Some time later our families were together. My preacher friend & I & were riding to the store one day & I finally decided to put a question to him respectfully but point-blank;-

“Have you ever had anything to happen in your ministry or personal life that you’d feel to be negative or bad or hurt you in any way?” Can you imagine asking a question like that? My friend knew me well enough to know I wasn’t just being nosey & that I was a friend who wasn’t going to spread anything negative about him.

He thought for a moment & then he spoke; “Well to be honest with you, the only thing I can think of that I think was my worst fault has been my tendency to be so far ahead of people & events that sometimes it caused problems, not because I was wrong but because I was moving too fast for people.”

Then I asked the last question I ever remember asking him. I said;-“Then what you’re saying is that the only fault or failure you ever had in your life & ministry wasn’t really a fault in you but the weakness in others around you.” He thought a short while & then a big smile crossed his face. I felt for a minute that hopefully my pushing him like this would cause him to get real with me & our friendship, instead of being bruised, would be enhanced. I thought he might even feel I was being sarcastic or dealing with him in a humorous way.

Finally he answered, sober as a judge; “John, you’re exactly right. It is, & has always been the problems of those around me.”

Not long after that conversation I got the shocking news that my friend had dropped dead suddenly. I spoke to a family member & learned that he’d just had a physical check-up & was told by the doctor that his constitution was a strong as an Ox. Later I learned he had stress related problems & had suffered a massive coronary occlusion. In essence, his heart had exploded; an extremely athletic man who had hardly gained a pound since his high school days.

I will always believe that my friend died very prematurely because he carried such unrelenting pride in the perfection of himself & everything connected to him. At some point the tipping point was reached & he was confronted with the incontrovertible evidence that his illusion of personal perfection wasn’t true & would never be true. This revelation devastated him, shattered him & killed him.

What we’re dealing with here is beyond a positive confession. Certainly words of faith & great expectation are powerful weapons in our spiritual arsenal. And unquestionably I would have been concerned if my friend had been prone to get down & wallow in his weaknesses & failures.

What I’m suggesting is that we by the grace of God tear down every wall that pride has constructed, because those walls will inevitably shut us off from the love, support & understanding we need from each other. They’ll certainly cut us off from our loving & compassionate God.

For…

.The lord resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.-
James 4:17


Blessings,

John