Sunday, July 20, 2014

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 emotional & 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 organize 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
Jerusalem
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.

THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS APPLY WHEN YOUR FAITH IS ON THE CRITICAL LIST.


First, you and I must...

1. PRAY

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."
Gethsemane
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.

2. CONTINUE TO GROW & LEARN


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.

3. DO SOMETHING- BETTER YET, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!


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 surprised at the good stuff that’s available. You'd be surprised 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.

4. RETAIN YOUR CHILDLIKE SENSE OF WONDER


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 it.........it'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, than 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
?

5. DON'T QUIT-NO MATTER WHAT!


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.

6. CELEBRATE SMALL VICTORIES


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...


7. ENJOY LIFE

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.

I know things don’t look good right now folks 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!!


8. DEVELOP NEW INTERESTS

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 .

9. STAY IN THE WORD

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.

 

Blessings,

 

John



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Horrible Illness Is Going Around

By John Stallings

There’s an illness going around.

 You’ve definitely heard of it, even if not by the name used here. It’s not the bird flu. It’s not the regular flu for which many have already gotten flu shots.

It’s not one of the more notable illnesses, like AIDS, or HPV. But I’m sure you’ve heard of it. In fact, everyone has seen its devastating effects. Some have seen it up close and personally. Some have experienced it themselves, or seen a loved one devastated by it.

Some are plagued with this illness, perhaps a mild case only affecting a part of our life, but infected nonetheless.

 The scary thing is how contagious it is, and how susceptible all of us are to this illness. Any of us can get the illness, and all of us have to take ongoing precautions against getting it. If we let our guard down
and don’t take illness prevention steps; it’s likely we’ll be infected.

 Though we’ve heard many warnings about how this illness can affect us, we tend to think, - no, not me. I won’t get this illness. I won’t be affected.

 Let’s look at a passage of scripture which gives a warning about this illness, and then I’ll share with you a modern-day name for it.

Luke
12:15 (NIV) Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Here’s our warning against this illness. Watch out, be on your guard, said Jesus, against all kinds of greed.

POSSESSION OBSESSION

This illness is called Affluenza and our culture is sick with it. Americans are infected with an all-consuming virus that threatens our well being. Affluenza  is a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of shopping fever, anxiety, waste, bankruptcies, family upheaval, bulging closets, cupboards, shelves and drawers particularly if they are stuffed with unworn clothes, unheard CDs, unread books, rarely used toys, equipment, electronics and other gadgets. Attics, basements and garages packed with same. Bloated credit card bills... the feeling that you’re forever catching up but never getting ahead. Not being able to remember the last meaningful conversation you had with close friends or loved ones. The sense you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of working harder, spending more, while enjoying and resting less.

If any of these are sounding too close to home, you’ve probably caught the affluenza bug. If so, you aren’t alone; most Americans have it.

The symptoms are everywhere, the causes not so mysterious and the treatment is available. But sadly there is little evidence that many Americans recognize they suffer from affluenza and even less evidence that those who are aware will actually take significant steps towards recovering from the disease.

Affluenza is a nifty little word that a clever sociologist created by mixing two different words together. The word affluence means having a great deal of money. Influenza is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease. When you put these two together, you get affluenza, which is a useful word for describing the problems generated by a rich consumer culture that has an endless hunger for more stuff. Affluenza is the disease of greed. The metaphor of disease is used to describe the damage being done to our physical, spiritual and mental health, by the obsessive, often unquestioned quest for material gain.

It's the materialistic mindset that says getting more money and possessions is the ultimate aim of life. Affluenza is the spirit of our age and this dogged quest for more has infected all of us.
Let’s drill down further into the disease and its diagnosis.
Af-flu-enza:

 1. A dysfunctional relationship with wealth or money that can strike anyone, regardless of economic level;

2. The bloated and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.

3. An epidemic of overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by an unrelenting pursuit of the American Dream.

I wonder if anyone has ever seen a warning label on money, like we have on so many other things?.

Interestingly enough, Affluenza is a widely used word. Even outside the church, people recognize how getting caught up in materialism can be a real sickness…it can ruin lives… it can destroy families; it can debilitate and cripple us.

Some might say, "I can't have affluenza, because I’m not one of the affluent." But affluenza isn’t a disease of the upper class. It can affect anyone. In fact, sometimes it’s greatest in those who have not achieved the financial status in life to which they have dreamed.

Let me give you a short true or false quiz…

1) I'm willing to pay way more for a T-shirt if it has a designer's name or logo on it.
2) I feel the need to own a 4-wheel drive Sport Utility Vehicle even though I never drive off the paved road.
3) I believe that if I buy a party dress, the party invitation will come.
4) I have a shoe collection Imelda Marcos would envy.
5) I'm willing to work 40 years at a job I hate so I can buy lots of stuff.
6) When I'm feeling sad, I love to go shopping and treat myself

Scriptures are replete with warnings concerning affluenza. Listen to…

1 Tim. 6:9-10 NIV

 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Here are some more facts about affluenza:

 Affluenza is characterized by:

- an inability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration
- a false sense of entitlement
- loss of future motivation
- preoccupation with externals
- self-absorption
- workaholism
- rampant materialism and consumerism

I think an example of affluenza is our society’s infatuation with the lottery. Again affluenza is not just a rich people’s illness. Most of the people who play the lottery don’t have the money to waste. But they’re infected with this illness, which apparently also makes you stupid, because, against all logic, against incredible odds, those with affluenza seem to think that it could happen to them…that they could be that big winner, and never have to work again a day in their lives.

Unfortunately, for many, there’s a huge cost to this illness… this get-rich-quick mentality. Instead of lifting them out of poverty, it only worsens their financial situation.

Of course, the lottery is only one example of affluenza. Even the world recognizes that something’s wrong with this picture. Even the world knows, almost instinctively, that money and things cannot buy happiness, though so many seem bent on trying to buy it anyway.

People of all economic levels buy into the overriding value within our culture that money solves all problems, thus denial of money-related difficulties is supported by society. Many sufferers of affluenza hesitate to seek help. As a nation, we have developed the false sense of entitlement which is characteristic of affluenza. Far from guaranteeing happiness, wealth or the single-minded pursuit of it can destroy happiness, or -- at the least -- increase existing problems.   

Before the fall of the Iron curtain, a leader in the Romanian church, which suffered persecution under communism, said this:

"In my experience, 95% of the believers, who face the test of persecution, pass it. 95% of the believers who face the test of prosperity, fail it.”

Prosperity, having a lot, is a test of our faith. It’s a test of where we put our treasure. The parable that Jesus told immediately after the warning we read talks about this.

Luke 12:16-21 (NIV)

 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ’What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ "Then he said, ’This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ’ "But God said to him, ’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ "

This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.

 Jesus tells us at the beginning of this parable that the good life has nothing to do with things, or with being wealthy. Because that’s true, we have to be on guard. We have to take precautions in our lives and in our spirits, against -greedwhich would be a bible word for affluenza.

A big part of our problem in dealing with this illness is that being on guard against greed, is the exact opposite of what we hear in our society. How about this advertising phrase?

You can have it now!

Or,

 You can have it all!

Or,

You deserve the best!

 Advertisers spend millions of dollars enticing us to let our guard down against affluenza.

If we take the illness analogy, and there was an outbreak of the flu, it would be as if advertisers said: Don’t wash your hands. Don’t worry about being around someone sneezing. Drink from the glass of someone with the flu, and be sure to share their food, too.

Advertisers tell us that if we buy more and more of their products, we’ll be happier, more fulfilled, more comfortable, maybe more popular, and definitely much cooler. There’s no hint of the warning of excess, and no hint that having the things they’re selling will not make us happy.

 34% of Americans polled in 2000 rank shopping as their favorite activity?

Seventy percent of Americans visit malls each week, more than attend churches or synagogues. On average, Americans shop six hours a week, and spend only 40 minutes playing with their children.

By the age of 20, the average American has seen some one million commercial messages .How much do you think these million messages are balanced out by messages from the Word of God? If you figure that the average hour-long TV show has about 20 minutes of commercials in it, then all you have to do is watch two hours of TV, and you’re told during those hours to indulge yourself in exposure to affluenza for a period of time just as long as this article will take to remind us of the scriptural warning to be on guard against it.

And that’s only counting TV commercials, and not the hundreds of other ways that encourage us to indulge ourselves, because we’re worth it…at least according to those trying to get us to spend our money on their products. The sheer weight of these messages on our spirits is overwhelming.

Advertising accounts for 2/3 of the space in newspapers, and 40 percent of our mail. The average American spends one year of their lives watching TV commercials.

We all acknowledge that when you have children, they’re usually the first to bring an illness into the house. Then everyone else in the house gets that cold or whatever. Well, children are the fastest growing segment of the consumer market. In 1995 alone, companies spent $1 billion marketing their products to young people. In the messages we get from our culture, if we hear something often enough, we start to believe it.

How about these ideas from this commercial onslaught:

If you use this product you will...

1. Join a wonderful group of people.
2. Feel appreciated.
3. Be rewarded.
4. Be held in high esteem by others.
5.  Have more love gratification in your life.
6. Enjoy the adventure or escape that you want.
7. Be more like famous or wealthy people.
8. Be associated with success, humor, or tradition
9. Find deep satisfaction.

And, if you do not use this product you will ...

10. Face social isolation or career failure.
11. Face failing health or death.

In other words, if you don’t use this product, you’re a real loser. All of these things conspire to spread affluenza. But the Bible says:

Luke
12:34 (NIV) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

That verse is just a few verses beyond the parable we just read. It’s how Jesus concludes his remarks on trusting Him for our needs…reminding us that the Father knows what we need and is more than able to provide.

 It’s interesting that an overwhelming majority of everything the gospels record Jesus said relates to this topic …money and possessions. There’s more about money in scripture than Christ’s teachings on heaven and hell combined. So: why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions? Why is there so much in scripture about wealth?

 It’s clear…there’s a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to separate our faith and our finances, but God sees these things as absolutely inseparable.

 Affluenza is an illness of the heart. It may be a little harder to hide from others than worldliness; but still, God is the only doctor capable of diagnosing, and healing, the human heart. That’s true if the ailment is worldliness, and that’s true if the ailment is affluenza.

 Materialism is not primarily what you have, it’s an attitude.


ONLY GOD CAN DIAGNOSE AFFLUENZA

You can have a lot and not be afflicted with affluenza. You can have very little and have a very bad case of affluenza. As an attitude, only God can truly know what’s going on with us. Only God sees the heart.

This article wasn’t written to encourage us to look around us and wonder who might be a carrier, or who might suffer from this illness. The only thing we need to do in response to this subject is ask, -- am I susceptible to affluenza?

And the answer to that is yes – we’re all susceptible. We must ask ourselves, are we afflicted with affluenza, in any part of our lives? We must look at our own heart, not the hearts of others.

BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS

Have you ever read a copy of the magazine Better Homes and Gardens? The magazine is not called Homes and Gardens. It’s called Better Homes and Gardens. Better than whose?

So, we have these warnings. They’re seen throughout the Word of God. But they’re for us,- not for us to diagnose the other person.

Friend, can you see the problem? Can you see the difficulty with affluenza? Maybe we can even admit that we’re at least susceptible to it, if not outright afflicted.

LYING AND DYING

Acts chapter 5 contains one of the darkest moments of the life of the early church. A husband and wife team, Ananias and Sapphira are sitting down, trying to figure out what they are
going to do as part of this community called the church. They decided to sell some property. But they also connived and they decided to lie about how much they were paid for it.

Here’s what they decided; “Whenever anyone asks us how much we sold it for, tell them it is this much and we’ll keep the rest. Just lie about it.” And so they did. And one by one they both come to Peter and Peter asked them “Is this how much you made?” They both lied and say yes… and the result is, -they died.

Scripture says that great fear seized everyone who heard about it. Well no kidding! Of course, it did. The question we ask as we look at that passage is WHY? Why did they die? Was it because they didn’t give it all? No. It goes a lot deeper than that.

The Message translation puts it.

The whole congregation of believers was united as one – one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus and grace was on all of them.
And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.

Joseph, called by the apostles “Barnabas” (which means
“Son of Comfort”), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles.

But a man named Ananias – his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him – sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.
Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the
Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.”

Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it.  The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.

Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing
of what had happened, came in. Peter said, “Tell me, were you given this price for your field?”

“Yes,” she said, “that price.”

Peter responded, “What’s going on here that you connived
to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who
buried your husband are at the door, and you’re next.” No
sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who
heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.

It’s clear to see that affluenza can kill.

THE RICH YOUNG RULER

He was a wealthy man. His eyes were set on religious things, - on teachers, eternal life, and good deeds. He was a seeker: he seemed willing to listen and eager to learn. He seemed to be a disciple-in-the-making. It was he that inspired Jesus’ famous words "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom." But his story has a sad end.

Often it's  only one thing that keeps a person from accepting Christ. This was true in life of the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus said…"One thou lackest..." He lacked the willingness to put Christ first above all in his life. That's  what God requires of all of us. One little thing but it was too big to surrender. Many people have only one thing --- lust, money, popularity, fame, possessions....one thing!

Mark
8:36 - What is a man profited if he gain the
whole world and lose his own soul..."


Look at what he was offered
.

He was offered a Savior - that would save his soul.
He was offered a Cross - that would lead to a crown.
He was offered a home in heaven.

Look at what he refused. He refused it all.

Watch Jesus as He begins to lead this young man step by step into what he must do. The young man passes all the requirements so far. If he will but take one more step he'll be saved. Everything else is done. If he will but surrender his all...the angels will sing and the
Kingdom of God will be richer for all time. If he will just step over that line and surrender...what joy for time and eternity would be his.

 He came but he went away. It’s shocking to see how a person can climb to the very door of heaven and yet fall into hell. See how much we can know and yet be foolish. See how much we can do and yet do nothing.

It’s possible to talk to Jesus face to face and yet go away. We can live with Jesus and not know Him. Judas did it.

 WHERE DID HE GO?

 Did he go to his friends? He had not found in his friends what satisfied or he would not have sought out Jesus.

WHERE DID HE GO?

 Back to his pleasures? I doubt if he found satisfaction there.

 WHERE DID HE GO? DID HE GO TO HEAVEN? HE LEFT HEAVEN WHEN HE LEFT JESUS!

If you could climb the steps of gold, enter the gates of pearl, walk the golden streets, and search for him, your search would be in vain. If you could cross the landscapes of eternal bliss in the city four-square you would not find him.
 

If you looked in the procession of the saints you would not find him. If you looked through the many mansions or among the multitude that no man can number you would not find him.

HE IS NOT THERE! 

 Jesus put his finger on the spot ---- the man loved his gold. How sad that in the fires of eternal judgement dwells one who once ran to Jesus, fell at his feet and asked,

 " Master, what must I do that I might have eternal life?"


Blessings,


John

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"I Can See Clearly Now...."

By John Stallings


Back in 1972 a little song called “I can see clearly now  entered the American music lexicon without much fanfare. But, as they say, it had legs.

There are few people on the planet who haven’t heard it at least once and it somehow seems to stick with you.

I don’t begrudge Johnny Nash his song but as I’ve said about lots of pop songs, I wish some gospel writer could have thought of it first and written it around a spiritual theme.

The words to the chorus are;

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

In Mark 8:22-26 when Jesus came to Bethsaida, they brought a blind man to him desiring Jesus to touch him. The Bible doesn’t give us the name of this blind man. He was destitute of the precious sense of sight. He had long been a stranger to beholding the beauties of nature. He could not see the lovely region around Bethsaida, the shimmering waters of the lake, the lovely flowers of the Galilean hills, nor the stars and the moon as they decorated the sky on a clear night. This man had a problem, and the people brought him to Jesus.

The healing of this blind man is one of the most fascinating miracles Jesus performed during His earthly ministry. It is also one that has produced a lot of conjecture and misunderstanding.

Let’s unpack this story and try to unravel some of the questions it presents.

The story is related to us very succinctly in five short verses, but in fact contains teaching that impacts our understanding of several spiritual truths. The disciples were granted the opportunity of witnessing a remarkable miracle in a city that was condemned for its unbelief.

Listen to Jesus’ words…

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:21-22).

Note that Jesus chose three Jewish cities and rebuked them for their unbelief. They had heard His preaching and seen His miracles yet had not repented. He compared them to present and past Gentile cities filled with sexual perversion, idolatry, and heathenism. These were the present cities of Tyre, Sidon, and the Old Testament city of Sodom. Jesus said these cities were better than the cities of Israel. If these cities had seen the same miracles and heard the same preaching, they would have repented. It will be more tolerable at the Great White Throne Judgment for the heathen Gentile cities than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in Israel.

Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of town before healing him. This blind man lived in Bethsaida so Jesus separated the man from the unbelief of the city. Jesus didn’t need snide remarks and insults to be hurled at this man who was young in faith. He could heal in the midst of unbelief, but this man could not maintain his healing surrounded by the ridicule of the city in which he lived. This is why Jesus led the man out of town and healed him away from the view of the religious population of Bethsaida.

The grave opening, deaf destroying, lame restoring, water walking, multitude-feeding, eye opening Jesus then spat on his eyes and touched him with his hands, then asked him if he could see. The blind man answered by saying, "I see men as trees, walking."

WHY DID JESUS SPIT ON THE BLIND MAN'S EYES?

Regardless of how you examine spitting in the Bible, it’s a great insult to spit on someone or to be spit upon. Anyone under the law who was spit upon had to wash themselves and their clothes and were considered unclean until the evening. (Leviticus 15:8) Other scriptures deal with the insult of being spit upon. (Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9) Jesus was spit upon as a great insult before He was crucified. (Matthew27:30)

Some folk miss the point of the miracle and the insult Jesus was giving by bringing spit into the transaction. Jesus didn’t spit on the blind man; He spat on the blindness. This was the ultimate insult to sickness and disease. If Jesus could speak to sickness and rebuke it, then apparently sickness can hear. (Luke 4:39) If sickness and disease can hear, it can also be insulted. Jesus released all of His contempt for Satan and his works when he spit on the blindness.

Jesus spat on two others in the New Testament. He healed another blind man by spitting in the clay and rubbing it in the man’s eyes. (John 9:1-7) He also spit on the tongue of a man with a speech impediment. (Mark 7:33) Notice in each of these cases, Jesus spat on the diseased part of the body demonstrating He was spitting on the disease, not the person. Jesus did not always lay hands on the diseased part of the body. He touched Peter’s mother-in-law on the hand to heal her of a fever. He touched people, but He spit on the devil and his works.

WHY DID JESUS PRAY FOR THE MAN TWICE?

 Jesus spit on the blindness, but He laid hands on the man for healing. In fact, He laid hands on the man twice. After laying hands on this man once, his eyes opened partially and he told Jesus he saw men walking, but they were blurry, they looked like trees. This man was not born blind, but somewhere in his life, perhaps through an accident, he had become blind. He knew what men looked like. He also remembered what trees looked like. When Jesus laid hands on the man a second time, his vision was completely restored. He saw clearly.

This is the only case recorded in the word where Jesus laid hands on a person more than once. Why? Because of the unbelief of the city of Bethsaida where he resided. He was filled with doubt concerning the ability of Jesus to heal him. Being separated from the people of the city allowed him to open himself up, albeit with skepticism, to the healing power of God. Once he could see partially, he resolved himself to being healed completely. Jesus didn’t lay hands on this man twice to release more of God’s power. God's full power was in manifestation. Jesus prayed twice because the man was now more open to God's healing power.

Although this is the only case where Jesus prayed twice for a person, it’s not the only case where a person was prayed for more than once. Jesus had to cast out the devil from a boy who had already been prayed for by the disciples. Jesus cast out the devil and then upbraided the disciples because of their failure due to the skepticism of the religious leaders and the pressure of the crowd. They had failed because of their unbelief.(Matthew17:20)

MANY PEOPLE DON’T SEE SPIRITUAL THINGS CLEARLY.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 4:4;

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not…..

Also in Ephesians 4:18…

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18)

When we read the Bible we need to pray like the Psalmist, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" -Psalm 119:18.

Humanistic religion won’t make you free; rationalism will not make you free; existentialism will not make you free; denominationalism will not make you free. All of these isms will keep you from seeing clearly.

There are many kinds of sight: physical, spiritual, intellectual, and hindsight, and there are so many people who need a second touch. A famous actress was recently asked why she remained single but adopted children. She said, "I had a baby at twenty five because I wanted to have a baby and I could afford it. I didn’t get married because I firmly believe that marriage destroys relationships.” Really? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in the grand scheme of things this woman isn’t seeing the big picture. She just isn’t seeing clearly.

Apollos, the eloquent preacher, did not see clearly and was given a second touch of teaching by Aquila and Priscilla. After that he could say “ I can see clearly now.” (Acts 18:24 28). The twelve men at Ephesus didn’t see clearly when they only knew of the baptism of John; but a second touch of teaching by the apostle Paul caused them to see clearly. Acts 19:1-5. Even though they had been saved they hadn’t even heard of being Spirit filled. After Paul expounded they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, just like on the Day of Pentecost.

You can’t be taught wrong, understand wrong, believe wrong, obey wrong and end up being right. Paul taught the Ephesians right; they understood right, believed right, obeyed right and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Ethiopian Eunuch was a church-going, Bible-reading man, but he did not see clearly. He was reading in the Old Testament and didn’t understand what he was reading. But evangelist Philip gave him a second touch of teaching by preaching Jesus to him and then the eunuch could sing –I can see clearly now. (Acts 8:27-39). There are many church-going and Bible-reading people who do not see clearly. They need a second touch of divine revelation.

This story under scores the fact that…

GOD DOESN’T TREAT US THE SAME WAY.

God isn’t limited by anything or anyone and he doesn’t treat us all the same. He heals one with a touch, another with a word, another with a glance, and yet another at a great distance. He touches one and never sees the other, and yet all are healed.

It’s a mark of maturity to say, “Lord, you don’t have to treat me the way you treat my neighbor.” We all understand that truth theoretically, but it is hard to come to grips with it when your child is sick unto death and your neighbor’s children are healthy and happy. No one knows exactly why two people get cancer and one lives while the other dies.

Many people struggle with this concept. They think that because God did something for a friend or a neighbor or a loved one, then God must be bound to do the same thing for them. But it doesn’t work that way. God can deliver your neighbor from cancer and not heal you. Or vice versa. Envying your neighbor because he has something you don’t have is a waste of time because God treats us as individuals, not as groups. The truth is, he might do for you exactly what he’s done for someone else, or he might do more or he might do less or he might do something entirely different. He’s God. He can deal with us the way he wants.

When Peter asked about John’s fate, Jesus brushed him off with a mild rebuke, as if to say, “Don’t worry about it.” In essence he was saying, that’s him, not you. God deals with us as individuals. The Lord isn’t obligated to bless you the same way he blesses anyone else. And he is not obligated to put you through the same trials [either greater or lesser] that anyone else goes through. Our only business is to make sure we are following Jesus closely. If we do that, we don’t have time to worry about how he treats our friends.

When Jesus entered the room to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, the mourners had already arrived and laughed Jesus to scorn for declaring the daughter was not dead but asleep. Jesus removed them from the room before He prayed. This was for Jairus’ sake. The father had already begun to fear when he heard the report of his daughter dying. (Mark 5:36) Jesus didn’t want this man surrounded by the unbelief so rampant in Capernaum. Jesus separated the man from the atmosphere of skepticism.

Notice the last thing Jesus told this blind man after his sight was restored. “Go back to your home, but do not go back into the city or tell anyone of your healing.” What a wonderful statement to anyone needing healing today who is bothered by the reports of unbelief given by friends, relatives, church or business associates. We can go home but we need to separate ourselves from the village of unbelief that could so easily sway us and cause us to be defeated. Home is where we can be alone with God to pray and study His Word.

God still asks us today, “whose report will you believe?” To believe His report, we must dwell on it and study it until it becomes a part of our lives.

WE DON'T GET BETTER AT THE SAME RATE OR THE SAME WAY

For every man who is suddenly, radically, completely transformed, it seems that there many more who must grow in grace slowly, through stages, and whose spiritual vision starts off cloudy and only slowly gets better. To say that is not to give in to pessimism. Often it’s for our benefit to get better gradually. Spectacular healings always amaze us—and thank God they do happen yet we should realize that God often chooses to heal slowly.

This principle works across the spectrum of spiritual life. Some people come to Christ and grow quickly, becoming strong Christians in a short period of time. Others take much longer to learn the Word and become strong in the faith. Many will struggle with blurry vision for a long time. I daresay that all of us have areas of “blurry vision” where see things very unclear. Every believer has blind spots which by definition we don’t see because if we saw them, they wouldn’t be blind spots.

A WORD ABOUT HOW YOU CAN RECEIVE HEALING

If you desire to be healed and are not a Christian, you should first find healing for your soul. Repent of your sins and seek God with your whole heart. When you repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus [not just some things about Him, but believe Him and trust Him and what He says in His Word], and confess Him with your mouth, - then you will be saved (see Romans 10: 9, 10). When you are born again by the spirit of God and born into the family of God, you are eligible to ask in faith for any of His promised benefits.

THE CHRISTIAN AND HEALING

If you are a Christian and haven’t received healing, examine your life and attitudes in light of God's Word. God hasn’t shown respect of persons in your case, as that’s contrary to His divine nature. If you are still sick, there is a reason, and God's Word will reveal it to you if you’ll diligently seek His face. When you find the problem and correct it, God's healing touch will be yours. This is God's guarantee, and God cannot lie.

Many fail to receive healing because they have been taught that sickness and physical suffering is God's way of bringing out the best in them, or developing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. They believe that they must be patient in affliction and wait until it’s God's time to heal them. They believe that God is working out patience and long-suffering in them. Or perhaps God is chastening them for some unknown sin.

It’s true that sin opens the door for sickness to enter, but all God asks is that the sin be confessed and forsaken. God doesn’t say, “Is any sick among you? Let him patiently wait until God has finished chastening him" but rather…

Confess your faults one to another [now, today], and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The promise is, The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:16, 15).

God is not glorified when Christians continue in sickness. Build your faith on the Word of God. Search the Word to find the reason you have not been healed. Get rid of the problem, and then accept your healing joyfully, in whatever way God sees fit to give it.

God may choose to heal you instantly or He may choose to let the healing be gradual. He may choose to give a sudden manifestation of your healing, but at a little later time. Or, as in the case of one whose time has come to go, He may bring deliverance from pain and suffering by taking the person to his eternal rest.

Lay aside your own ideas of how God is going to heal you and accept the healing God's way. Believe God and take Him at His word. God says healing is for you. God, who cannot lie, says to- believe that ye receive it and ye shall have it.

Don’t cast away your confidence if recovery doesn't come immediately. Hold fast to your faith in the Word of God. Stand upon the promise and God guarantees that your healing shall come.

SAVED BY HIS HONESTY

What finally saved this poor blind man was his honesty. He didn’t lie to Jesus. That’s a crucial insight. He could have said, “Lord, I see all things clearly.” If he had said that, he would never have gotten better. His honesty gave him the sight he did not have.

Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with God. How difficult to admit our weakness.

Jesus didn’t ask this man, “Can you see anything?” in order to get information he didn’t have. Jesus knew the answer to the question. He wanted the man to be honest about his true condition.

We must come to the Lord just as we are, and when we do, he takes us as we are, but he never leaves us that way. That’s why the invitation of Jesus is always very personal.

Cast yourself upon the Lord and he will not turn you away.

Blessings,


John

Friday, July 4, 2014

Please...Just Lock The Door!


By John Stallings


I have a friend who has a beautiful house that sets on a nice piece of property.


He has a nice family, a lovely wife and three kids. He keeps the house up very well but laughs about some of the things that still need fixing, says they give the house character. I think he’s right, and there’s not enough wrong to detract from how nice his house is. My friend’s neighborhood has changed for the worse over the last few years. It’s gotten much rougher. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not nearly as bad as some places, but suffice to say it’s just not the same place he knew a few years back. One of his neighbors down the street was mugged recently as she walked from her driveway to her porch. Another neighbor just a few blocks over from him was attacked in the middle of the night when he surprised a burglar in his house.

But what really got my friends attention was one night recently he came in late from work and went in to check on one of kids and found a man going through his little daughters dresser. Scary, right? Well the intruder escaped, the cops never caught him and my friend’s daughter sleeps with the light on now.

My friend’s home isn’t the same anymore.

He now has cameras all over the house, outside and in, and has six or eight monitors all over the place and everyone’s instructed to call him if they see anything the least bit suspicious.

My friend now has a 90-pound Rottweiler named Evil that roams around the place. Evil knows who’s supposed to be there and who’s not and Lord help anyone who’s not supposed to be there if Evil catches them.

My friend has also bought shotguns and they are positioned all over the house as well as a 357 magnum which he keeps at his bedside. My friend is well gunned and prepared for the next person who would dare to approach that house and threaten his loved ones.

BUT MY FRIEND HAS A CRAZY HABIT!

I know it sounds odd but this friend of mine just will not lock his doors, -ever. I’ve told him several times and everybody tells him that he must keep his doors locked but nothing doing, he’s old fashioned, he won’t do it.  I tell my friend;

The easiest, most common sense thing he could do that wouldn’t cost him a cent would be to lock his doors.

Then I point out the obvious, -that locking a door isn’t a permanent type thing, you can always only open the door for the people you want to come into the house. I tell him that he’d be better off to have saved the money spent on guns etc. and just close and lock his doors. But nooooooo my friend won’t listen; he wants those doors unlocked.

He has his arsenal.

He has his cameras.

He has his dog.

They will surely keep the bad guys away from his house; the doors will stay open.

Even as I write this I am so frustrated with my friend that I can’t see straight.

Anyone should be able to figure out that his duty would be to use the first line of defense to protect his family and that is;


JUST LOCK THE DOOR --AND LET IN ONLY THOSE WHOM YOU TRUST.

I apologize!! By now you know that I don’t really have a friend this stupid.

But do you know what? We have a Nation that is armed to the teeth and that’s good. We have enough nuclear explosives to destroy the world several times over. We have smart weapons that just to hear them described takes your breath away. I appreciate all that! But what sense does it make for us to have all this if our “Achilles heel” is going to be a mule train ambling over Canada’s or Mexico’s porous borders laden with poisonous WMD or suitcase bombs? By now we all have heard that the 19 Islamic terrorist’s who hit us on 9/11 had between them 67 different driver’s licenses. Can it be true what one man said, that a nuclear attack will be mandatory before we ever “lock the door”? Has America’s safety really become a “tombstone industry”?

We’ve got the dog, the guns and the cameras, but for some reason that escapes me -they refuse to lock our doors.Some are saying that a fence on our southern border wouldn't do any good.The following isn't original with me but the fence around the White House seems to be doing it's job well.

YOU MAY ASK IF I WOULD LIKE AMERICA TO ISOLATE ITSELF AND NOT LET ANYONE ELSE IN.

A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!


We can always open the doors to let whomever we want to come in.  Historically this practice is what made our nation great.

But instead, we leave our borders open risking our safety simply because we won't do the first, most simple thing we could do to protect our security. Obviously I’m no expert. I really didn’t need to tell you that did I ?

Some say politics is why we keep the doors open, maybe so. That’s too deep for me. Some say we need the cheap labor of the people who come in illegally because not enough of our citizenry will do mundane work. Maybe so. Some say we should build a wall. I don’t know about that either. But if we are smart enough to send men to the moon along with a car to drive around up there, aren’t we smart enough to come up with a plan to keep people bent on doing us harm from waltzing through our doors?

NOTE TO OUR LEADERS.

 PLEASE... JUST LOCK THE DOOR!


Blessings,

John


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Is Anyone Born Gay?

By John Stallings


Is there a “Gay Gene?”

I read an article recently about Pastor Jim Swilly, the pastor of a Georgia “mega church” announcing that he is gay.

Pastor Swilley stated, “I know a lot of straight people think it is a choice. It is not.” He went on to say that he has known of his homosexuality since he was a boy.

Is it true that homosexuals have no choice in the matter? Are people born gay? More importantly, is this really the question we should be asking? We’ll get back to that.

I’m not an expert on gender issues and sexual identity. I don’t pretend to be. So, I’m not going to be giving my expert opinions about those things, because I don’t have any. I am simply going to attempt to stick with what the Bible clearly teaches.

The 'born gay' argument for homosexuality states that same sex attraction is natural to some individuals in that it is genetically determined, not freely chosen.

It would stand to reason that if homosexuality is genetically determined, it cannot be resisted or changed and, therefore, must be morally permissible. How could it be otherwise? To condemn it would be condemning someone for something that was out of their control.

Most gay people say that they’ve been attracted to the same sex for as long as they can remember, just as heterosexuals would say about their sexual preference. So it’s natural to them.

There are two ways that the argument for homosexuality is promoted:
first, by pointing to genetic studies related to same-sex attraction;
and second, by an appeal to personal experience.

The field of genetics has not discovered a gay gene. Many scientists think homosexuality is caused by a complex combination of genes, brain chemistry and psychosocial factors. Consider the following excerpt from the American Psychological Association’s publication:

“Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality:”

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.

Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”
In other words, there is no “gay gene.”

If science were to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality isn’t genetically determined, [they already have,] gay people would not feel any less convinced that they were born gay. In other words, gay people wouldn’t automatically walk away from their lifestyle on the basis of what a scientists found in a laboratory.

However, if science someday proved that murderers are born murderers in the same way that many gay people believe they are born gay, it would be safe to say that gay people wouldn’t conclude that murder is morally permissible for those who are “born that way.”

What the argument seems to boil down to then, is that some gay people believe they were born gay because they are naturally attracted to their sex. The desire wasn't coerced, or forced, or acquired after years of trying, it just sort of developed as naturally as the ability to walk and talk.

"Natural" is difficult to define in relation to sexual orientation, but in this case it seems to mean something like "a development according to natural processes." How we discover whether something is natural to us is another matter, of course. I think it’s safe to say that the way most gay people would describe same-sex attraction as natural to them is the same way most heterosexuals would describe it: a deeply felt desire.

If this is true, then the 'born gay' argument seems to be saying this: homosexuality is morally permissible because same-sex attraction is natural.

But the question of nature versus nurture is a moot point.

The Bible is clear that we were all born slaves to what is known as a SIN NATURE. It is natural for people to sin. [ See Genesis 3 and Romans 5 to learn how we inherited this sin nature.]

The “born gay” argument says that if something is natural, that is, a deeply felt desire or attraction, then it is morally acceptable. However, this argument could be used to show that any desire that feels natural to someone is morally permissible. On these grounds, traits such as selfishness, violence, gluttony, laziness, or even homophobia could be justified as natural.

This is obviously a silly argument. All of us have natural desires --even deeply felt ones--that should be resisted or even eliminated because they are unhealthy, harmful, or wicked. The fact that it's a natural desire isn’t a sufficient factor in evaluating the morality of same-sex attraction.
I would argue that this calls for an authority beyond us to help us understand which desires are good and which are bad. Like say, -the Bible.

There are only two ways to get around the biblical teaching against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of the Bible.

The Bible endorses heterosexuality and discourages homosexuality in two ways:

1. The model of the male/female marriage relationship as outlined in the creation account (Genesis 1-3) and supported throughout the Bible; and

2. By specifically forbidding perversions of this model, including adultery, polygamy, incest, lust, homosexuality, etc. [ Leviticus 18; Romans 1]

God loves gay people. Since we all know God loves all people, I don’t think it really necessary to list here a bunch of Bible verses about God’s love for humanity.

God doesn’t love labels. He loves people. Whether people are gay or straight, Asian or European, black, white, Hispanic, male or female—He loves people, as they are. One thing that unites us all is that God loves us with a crazy, unconditional love. If God loves that way, then godly people do too.

However God designed sex to be expressed between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. Any other sexual expression is therefore, outside of God’s design.

To understand God’s design for human sexuality, let’s go all the way back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis, 2:18-25. The Lord God said,

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. The Lord God made a woman, brought her to the man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

We learn a lot about God’s design right in these few verses.

1. First, God created sex, and therefore sex is a good thing.

2. Second, He created humans with gender, male and female, and the suitable complement for Adam was a woman.

3. Third, sex was designed for man and woman in a committed relationship called marriage.
Any sexual expression outside of that design is sinful and ultimately destructive.

At the risk of beating a dead cliche’, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Freddy.”

Homosexuality is a departure from that design, because God did not create sex or marriage to be a same sex relationship. Since homosexuality violates God’s blueprint for sexuality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that when the Bible speaks about homosexuality it describes it as a sinful departure from God’s will for us.

Leviticus 20:13 says: ‘”If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable...
Romans 1:18 and 26-27 says:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
There is not one example where homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible where it is condoned. Because it is outside of God’s design, it is always described as sin.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. 1 Corinthians 6:9

Those who practice the homosexual lifestyle learn sooner or later that it’s anything but gay. The truth is that the median age of death for the homosexual male is 38 and for lesbians it is 45. This shorter life span is no doubt due to the following risks associated with homosexual behavior:
They are more likely to face chronic, potentially fatal liver disease (infective hepatitis) which increases the risk of liver cancer. They put themselves at risk of contracting AIDS, which, in spite of medical breakthroughs still eventually kills everyone infected.

Those who practice homosexuality have a high frequency of fatal rectal cancer. They have a much higher than average incidence of suicide-six times as high as that of heterosexual men. Between 25 and 33 percent of homosexual men are alcoholics while the national average is less than 7 percent.

Does this sound like a comfortable, healthy, desirable lifestyle? I don't think so. In fact, as I look at these statistics I remember the warning of Proverbs:

There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death. –Proverbs 14:12.

When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, many of our natural drives turned selfish, wicked,
harmful, unhealthy, etc. Further, the fall of man into sin wreaked havoc on the natural order, resulting in birth defects, deformities, diseases, etc. So now people are born with serious maladies, deformities, handicaps; some children contract terminal illnesses and die untimely deaths. Others experience a lifetime of suffering. Some are mentally handicapped or mentally ill.

We come into this world imperfect physically and morally/spiritually. It could be argued that it is not fair that these people suffered such ravages of the natural order. It is not a child's fault that he/she is born deaf or blind. But it is a fact that, marred as our world now is through sin, some are born with greater challenges, more miserable maladies, more intense moral challenges than others.

It’s possible then, just possible that the same distorted natural order that produces people who experience chronic pain, or depression, or deformities, or die untimely deaths, or suffer from sexual addiction could produce others with sexual tendencies counter to God's ideal. Everyone who wants to follow Jesus will have to, by his grace, resist temptation and radically alter certain tendencies. No doubt some are saddled with greater challenges than others to overcome.
Some gay people dedicate their lives to Christ and become straight, with varying degrees of difficulty in making the change. I don’t doubt or underestimate the massive life-restructuring that is necessary for some to become straight.

But at the same time I will not deny the power of God to change lives.

Sexual temptation is perhaps the hardest to fight, but God’s promise is real. He will strengthen
us so that we can win over any temptation, and always provide a way of escape. We all struggle with weaknesses, this is true for everyone who wants to follow Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul says,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

When it comes to same-sex desires, this does seem to be a very powerful tendency. Can God transform that? Sure He can. There are stories of that happening, as people pursue God and Christian counseling, that God actually changes whole tendencies and preferences.

My own experience with sinful tendencies is that He has not taken all my fleshly proclivities away. What He has done is given me strength to face them, as I am honest with God, honest with other supportive friends, as I flee tempting situations, and then trust God to be faithful. It’s actually in that weakness that spiritual growth happens, as we learn what it means to rely on God, as we learn what it means for him to be our strength.

There is no “ flip of the switch” to change any of these temptations or weaknesses. If there was, we would all flip the switch. With people who feel an attraction to their own sex, they must do the same as the person who fights heterosexual temptation, a hot temper, urges to steal, kill, cheat and lie. This must be confessed to God as we walk daily before Him, leaning on His Holy Spirit to help us live overcoming lives.

It appears that our society has come to a point where if one holds that homosexuality is immoral or if one does not support gay marriage… he is often considered ignorant, mean, or "homophobic." There is a social tyranny to this issue that is extremely troubling.

If we were talking about harming others for their sexual preferences, that would be one thing, but to disagree philosophically and Biblically and be put down for it is quite another.

Getting back to Pastor Swilley, I don’t doubt that he has felt a natural inclination to sin in this way. I personally have had a natural inclination towards heterosexual immorality, gluttony, and pride, to name a few. These are all lifestyle sins and God considers my sin the same as Mr. Swilleys.

Frankly I don’t know enough about Swilley to comment much more except to say, if he has admitted to being tempted in this way that’s one thing. If he’s advocating or pursuing the homosexual lifestyle, that’s entirely another thing. God has also called Mr. Swilley, myself , and every one of us to forsake what is natural to fallen people.

Outside of Christ we’re all sinful, and that means we all have a strong pull toward things outside of God’s will for us, whether it’s a hot temper, jealousy, slander, gossip, materialism, pornography, drunkenness, spiritual pride or a gambling addiction. Every one of us has life struggles with sin, strong magnetic pulls away from God and toward sin. Having an orientation toward something doesn’t make it legitimate.

THE REAL QUESTION WE SHOULD BE ASKING
The question isn’t really- is a person born gay? The way they were born really has nothing to do with anything because our choices, not our temptations define us. We’ve already established that some were born with hot tempers or with a greater sex drive than others. Who hasn’t had a child to lie to them and manipulate them? All of us are born needing a new nature and we receive it by yielding ourselves to God and His gracious provision through Jesus Christ His Son.

Listen again to Paul;

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.-
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul describes both outer struggles, persecution and the like, and this inner struggle he had which he describes as a thorn in the flesh, something that Satan used to torment him. We don’t know if it was a sin struggle, an emotional struggle, or a physical struggle, because he doesn’t tell us. It could have been any of these. Three times he prays fervently for God to take it away, and each time God said no, and then a final word:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

This is a very profound reality for anyone who wants more than anything else to be godly. Some of our struggles that we want so badly for God to remove, that we see as enemies to our life, may be the very things God will use to give us real life, real godliness, and depth of maturity.
In Paul’s case, when he prayed for God to change him, to remove the struggle, God didn’t do that. And what Paul came to learn is that the struggle itself was the very thing God used to give him what he wanted most—authentic godliness.

Struggles are not enjoyable, but the deeper the struggle the greater the opportunity for God to be strong in our weakness. When God allows a thorn in the flesh, when God allows a struggle, even as we pray for him to remove it, maybe the most gracious thing He can do is to not remove it, so that this profound growth can happen.

WE NEED TO LOOK CLOSELY AT OUR OWN LIVES
Many folk seem to believe the Bible classifies sin and that the sin of homosexuality is listed as being worse than other sins that we ourselves commit. But this is really a misinterpretation of scripture.

If there were a list of sins from worst to best-then at the top of the list would be pride or arrogance...the belief that my sin doesn't move me as far from God's holiness as your sin does.
The Bible clearly teaches that all of us have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. It states that this world is in its current depraved state because each of us have given in to sinful desires and are therefore totally dependent on the grace of God.

In I Corinthians 6 Paul says,

-Don't fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who were idol worshipers, adulterers, or homosexuals, will have not share in his kingdom.... And then it says, .

..THERE WAS A TIME WHEN SOME OF YOU WERE JUST LIKE THAT....but now your sins are washed away...You're set apart for God, and He's accepted you because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God have done for you.
Paul acknowledges here that practicing homosexuals in the church were able to find freedom from the practice and that Christ gave them a fresh start. So, healing/change is possible.

As with any addiction, sexual or otherwise, homosexuality will not just go away because the homosexual wants it to disappear. It requires confession, repentance, healing, and accountability. The way out is not easy. If it were, more would have chosen it. But it is possible

Years ago an article was written in the TIMES OF LONDON entitled, What's Wrong With the World? The author of the article was grappling with some of the things that make the world a bad place.

British author and Christian spokesman G. K. Chesterton wrote a letter to the editor following that piece and said,

“I noted with interest the article that you published yesterday entitled, 'What's wrong with the world?' I felt compelled to write and tell you:

I AM.”

Sincerely,

G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton was right!

We -- you and I -- not just homosexuals -- are what’s wrong with the world. All of our lives are affected by sin...and all of us are equally in need of God's redemption. The ground is level at the cross. We are no better than any other sinners and we have to be humble enough to realize this if we are to act compassionately toward homosexuals in the world who like us desperately need to experience the Love of God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:1-2


Blessings,


John