Monday, July 25, 2016

Risky Business

By John Stallings


Recently I heard Pastor John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California on television relating how he’d sat by the deathbed of a 78 year old man.

The dying man was relating some of his failings in life but rejoicing in the fact that he’d confessed everything and God had forgiven him. He wasn’t worried about death or his standing before God.

Then the man added something that took MacArthur aback. He said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I’m so sorry I was never able to get the victory over pornography.”

Macarthur said, “Well, for you young people here today, especially the young men, I guess this isn’t especially encouraging news.”

RISKY!

I realize that talking about sexual matters is fraught with possible problems. I could offend people. I might embarrass somebody.

The following story illustrates why I would write this post…

During a counseling session a minister asked a young man, "How often do you entertain thoughts about prophecy?"

The young man answered: "About twice a year—once around Christmas, and again some time around Easter.”

The minister then asked, “How many times in a given day do you have sexual thoughts?" You could have heard a marshmallow fall on a carpet. Silence. The young man couldn’t speak.

The obvious point is -the average person, right or wrong, rarely thinks about prophecy, but hears sermons on the subject quite often. However how many times do you hear biblically relevant preaching on human sexuality—something a large majority of people are thinking about and dealing with most all the time? Only occasionally.

Truthfully, for most healthy people, for at least a good portion of our lives, sexual thoughts aren’t that few and far between. Anything that occupies that much of our thought life and drives that much of our personality ought to be addressed, because some of those thoughts are misguided and in need of God's correction.

For a minister never to mention sex would be to desert his post at one of the most active battlefronts in our lives and culture.

Why rush in where angels tiptoe?

You just can't ignore the topic of sex. Marriages are struggling because of misleading information about this subject. Young people are making mistakes because they're getting behavioral cues from all the wrong sources. Singles are wrestling with sexual dilemmas. Sex is a subject begging for a clear Christian word. Here’s a good word for starters;

ABSTAIN

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says;

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” NKJV

There are not many things from which the Bible tells us to abstain. The word itself is used only 7 times in the New Testament—3 times in the book of Acts referring to temporary restrictions, once in 1 Timothy referring to false doctrine, and once in 1 Peter. The other two times are found in 1 Thessalonians.

It’s interesting to know that the Bible does not use the word “abstain” with reference to alcohol. While there certainly are many good reasons to be cautious about alcohol and good reasons to abstain, the Bible itself does not say, “You shall abstain from alcohol.”

Whenever we see the word “abstain” in the Bible we know two things for certain:

1. It is a command of God

2. It is an absolute prohibition

Therefore, whenever we find a command to abstain in the Bible, we ought to take it seriously. It’s so simple and clear that there need be no debate about it. God commands believers to abstain from sexual immorality. Period. End of story. The command is crystal-clear.

No Difference!

No message is more needed in the church today. Several years ago the Gallup organization released a survey in which they compared the beliefs and lifestyles of evangelical Christians with the public at large The results were quite revealing. In the first place, the survey showed that there’s an enormous interest in spiritual things among the unchurched. Contrary to popular opinion, many Americans think deeply about ultimate issues and genuinely want to find meaningful answers.

Second, the survey revealed a general rise in immoral behavior. In an age when more people are attending church, there is an alarming rise in crime and unethical behavior, even among those who are very religious. One quote stuck with me: “There is little difference in ethical behavior between those who go to church and those who don’t.”

I am reminded of the words of the late evangelist Vance Havner who said - “the church has become so worldly and the world so churchy that it’s hard to tell the difference.

Facing the Facts

There is a reason for all this. Our society has changed. If you think things have gotten worse, you’re right.

Fact—Hardcore pornography has come out of the closet and on to main street.
Fact—Through the Internet the vilest forms of pornography are now available
to young children.
Fact—Homosexuality is now seen as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.
Fact—Many mainline denominations now have openly gay clergy.
Fact—We routinely see things on television that would have shocked us 25 years ago.
Fact—Nothing much surprises us anymore.

We’ve seen it all … and seen it so often we’ve lost our ability to be shocked. Adultery … premarital sex … group sex … lesbianism … wife swapping … pornography in our local convenience stores … x-rated movies on TV … multiple marriages … quick abortions … incest … child abuse … bestiality … teen pregnancy … gay churches … televangelists who visit prostitutes … herpes … AIDS … radical sex education. And on and on the list goes.

GONE WITH THE WIND

It hasn’t always been this way. There was a day when the entire nation could be shocked by just one word. When the move “Gone With the Wind” was released in 1939, it caused an uproar because Clark Gable uttered the following line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a da.n.”

We’ve come a long way, baby. And not necessarily in the right direction either.

What has happened to America? When did we lose our collective sense of modesty? Why did we go morally blind? Somewhere in the last generation morality died, and public opinion eroded.

Two Words We Need to Understand 1-3

There are two words we need to understand very clearly. First, the word abstain means “to hold off from, to distance oneself from, to have nothing to do with.” You are abstaining from something when you separate yourself from it completely. Second, the phrase “sexual immorality” comes from the Greek word porneia, which is a very broad word encompassing every kind of sexual activity outside the circle of God’s will. It covers sins of the mind, body, eyes, ears and lips. It includes premarital sex, extra-marital sex, every form of homosexuality, adultery, and every form of pornography. In fact the English “pornography” comes from the Greek word porneia. Paul is telling us that Christians must abstain from a pornographic lifestyle in the broadest sense of that word.

This means there can be no “moderate immorality” and no “social adultery” and no “victimless pornography.” We are not to dabble in sexual sin in any of its various forms. To the contrary, we’re to have nothing to do with it.

In a world of impurity Christians are to be different. That’s what the word “sanctification” means. A sanctified person is a Christian whose life is “distinctively different” because it’s set apart for God.

PAUL’S DAY

Perhaps you’re wondering if things were different in Paul’s day. The answer is, they were worse, if that’s possible. In the first place Thessalonica was a seaport, which meant that people from all over the Mediterranean world stopped there in transit from one place to another. The sailors and visiting merchants brought with them the usual desires for sexual gratification. More importantly, the Greek religions of that day practiced “sacred prostitution.” That involved hiring a prostitute at a pagan temple as part of your acts of worship. This sounds sick because it is sick!

The famed orator Demosthenes described the moral climate of ancient Greece this way:

“We keep prostitutes for pleasure, we keep mistresses for day to day needs of the body, we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guarding of the home.”

Given the moral atmosphere of the day, there must have been enormous pressure on those young Christians to lower their standards to conform to the world around them. But Paul will have none of it. He orders them to abstain from every form of sexual immorality.

Two Commands We Must Obey

Verses 4-6 flesh out that command in more detail. He gives them two instructions—one positive and one negative. We must take each one to heart if we are going to be clean in a very dirty world.

# 1: Control your own body 4-5

Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God (vv. 4-5). Verse 4 literally commands each man to “possess his own vessel/body.” To possess is to control in the sense of mastering the impulse to sin.

A God-empowered man controls his own body. When God is not in control, the body controls the man.

Paul explains his meaning in verse 5 where he mentions the “passionate lust” of the heathen.

Notice carefully the reason he gives. The heathen “do not know God.” That’s the cause of all the pain, misery, sin and debauchery in the world today. Men do not know God and therefore indulge their worst fantasies.

When men turn away from God, anything is possible. No one knows how deep men can go when they do not know God. There is no limit, no end. Because there is no check on their desires, they commit unspeakable sin.

But we know God … and that makes all the difference!

Paul was no prude. Remember that Paul was a single man living in a strange land filled with temptation. He knew all about the depth of sin. He heard the siren song, “Come on, everyone’s doing it.” He felt the desire for closeness, he longed for the thrill of intimacy.

It would have been easy for him to give in, but he didn’t. The price was too high. He was a Christian first. He knew God … and that made all the difference.

# 2: Don’t cheat another person –v.6

“In this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.” The King James Version uses the word “defraud.” Other translations use words like “wrong” or “cheat.” The meaning may be made clear by a few examples:

*Don’t cheat your brother by sleeping with his wife.
*Don’t cheat your wife by dreaming of other women.
*Don’t cheat your boy friend or girl friend by leading them on.
*Don’t cheat your future husband or wife by giving away that which
you can never get back—your purity.
*Don’t cheat your friends by claiming to be one thing in public and something
else in private.
*Don’t cheat your family by sneaking away behind their backs.
*Don’t cheat your loved by doing anything you would be ashamed for them
to know about.

Immorality is like that. It always cheats someone else—usually someone you love very much. Just ask any wife whose husband left. Just ask any parent whose child had an affair. Just any church members who saw their pastor fall into sexual sin.

Perhaps the saddest thing about lust is that it’s never satisfied. Someone has said that lust is “the craving for salt by a man dying of thirst.” It promises everything and delivers nothing. No great release. No lasting satisfaction. Not even any swift punishment.

You always have to go back for more. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Lust forces you to keep coming back.

Three Facts God

Our text closes with three reasons why this command is so important. Each one applies directly to us today.

1. God will punish those who practice immorality. 6

The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.”

Sometimes He punishes the body, sometimes the mind, sometimes our speech, our eyes, often our health, and almost always our memories. Lust produces that inward deadening that is both unexpected and inevitable.

The most likely judgment is that God will simply leave a person alone to suffer the natural consequences of their sin, but we must remember that in the future what has been done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops.

2. God has called us to purity. V.7

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” Christianity is supremely the champion of purity. Our faith is utterly alien to every form of uncleanness. When Jesus comes in, he cleans house.

3. Rejecting purity means rejecting God.v. 8

Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” To reject means to treat with utter contempt. It is to render the commandment of God null and void.

This is what Nathan meant when he asked David, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (2 Samuel 12:9)

By committing adultery and then ordering Uriah murdered to cover it up, he had treated God’s holy commands with utter contempt. He knew it was wrong and yet he did it anyway.

You and I can’t have it both ways. We must either be pure … or stop calling ourselves Christians!

All of us need to hear this message. I need it personally. No one is exempt—not the pastor nor the elders nor the staff members nor the people in the pew. This is God’s Word for all of us.

AVOIDING SEXUAL TRAPS-GUARDRAILS!

Sexuality 101 tells us that if we’re to avoid the many traps of Satan in sexual areas we’re going to have to have some guardrails.

A guardrail is a system designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous, or off-limit areas.

The guardrail is placed in an area that’s safe to drive to keep us from going into places that are unsafe to drive. A guardrail is always placed a few feet or yards away from the area of danger. Guardrails are designed to cause a little bit of damage in order to keep you from experiencing a lot of damage. We all know that on the other side of guardrails are places that are unsafe for us to go.

In order for you and me to avoid serious wreckage in our lives, we need to establish a system, a standard of personal behavior that becomes a matter of conscience.

We need moral guardrails that will help us with our friendships, our marriages, our academic, professional and just about any arena of life.

As an example, if you’re married, a good “guardrail” would be to establish that you’ll never have lunch with anyone of the opposite sex, nor will you allow yourself to be alone with them except under extremely extenuating circumstances. Think about it, if you established these kinds of guardrails, wouldn’t it be difficult for you to ever be exposed to sexual temptation?

You and I need a system that says- In this area of my life, this is as far as I’m going to go-period! I’m not going to tempt fate. You and I need to make that decision so personal that when we violate it or began to violate our own personal standard, our conscience lights up and says, “Warning, warning, warning! You’re moving towards something dangerous.” A personal standard of behavior that maybe nobody would subscribe to but you, a personal standard of behavior that’s your own, but you’re so committed to it that you actually feel guilty because your conscience lights up.

Shocking words about Sexual intimacy…

The Bible says with crystal clarity that when a guy and a girl, have sex, they are married. Paul, in one of his letters, took the Corinthians to the woodshed for visiting prostitutes. Paul’s explanation of why it’s wrong?

1 Corinthians 6:16-17:

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”

Let’s think about this; Paul is saying that when a man and a woman have sex, they become a couple – they are married. In God’s eyes, they are married. They are one flesh, just like the very first couple. Sexual intimacy is unifying.

You and I must remember this: Sexual intimacy unites. It doesn’t even take sexual intercourse. Pardon my frankness, but, shedding clothes, stimulating one another, etc. are all forms of sexual intimacy that create permanent bonds. Such bonds can even be formed by fully clothed and simulated sex or explicit talk with another or sexual fantasies.

A lot of people are unconvinced that these last things automatically create the bond, but be careful. You do such things at your own peril because the bond could be formed before you know it. Why play with fire?

Sexual intimacy unites.

If you experiment with sex outside of marriage, you will build unity whether you intend it or want it or not. I’m not trying to guilt people here but one has to know the consequences of their action.

When two people sleep together, the body makes a promise even if the mind doesn’t?

Sexual intimacy yields unity. You have established a solemn unity. You’re married. Maybe you will deny that. Maybe you can find a way to block out God’s commands about adultery and sexual immorality and fornication. It may not even be difficult to block them out because the words you’re now reading sound so heavy handed, like they come from a different era and have no relevance now. But you will have a bond with that person until you die. You can end the affair or you can break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend, but you have established a bond that is not going away. I don’t say that to “slap you upside the head” with the wrath of God. I say it because you need to know what you are getting into. It’s risky!

Once the bond is formed, you have only two choices. First, you can try to ignore the unity that you have just built. That’s a very popular option and why not? Sex brings unity and excitement and wonderful, physical pleasure. Take away the unity and sex is still magnetic.

Sex outside of a marriage – whether it be pre-marital sex or an affair – is exciting. It is dramatic. But it’s risky. You might get a huge kick from the danger of the forbidden. All the excitement and pleasure can make you think that this thing you share with the other person must be right. We might think that sin should immediately made you feel miserable, but it doesn’t always work that way. It could be really thrilling – a drug that makes you want more and more.

But the substance to which you are addicted is excitement and it is excitement built on a gift from God that is missing an essential component. The foundation is flawed. It can’t last. It’s not real. Real sex starts with unity, not excitement, certainly not the excitement of indulging in something out of bounds.

Like macaroni and cheese, married love-isn’t particularly exotic, but very satisfying and profoundly unifying.

Base sexual intimacy on unity – on public vows, promises made to each other and to God and to all your friends and family, promises that the two of you will be one and always and only one, and now you have something to build on. And as for the thrills and excitement, well, don’t worry. That will come often enough. Maybe more than you could ak or think and over a course of many decades

You’ll remember that I said sexual intimacy in all its forms builds unity. If you have engaged in sexual intimacy, then you have built that unity with anther human being. From that point you have only two options. So far, I have only spoken about the first option. By this option, you simply try to ignore the unity and carry on. That might work for a time, but not completely.

But there’s a second option, and this is a great place to conclude.

GRACE ALWAYS RULES THE DAY!

This option is all about grace, about the loving and faithful willingness of God to forgive. Here’s some good news. You might wrestle with your past sexual behavior but it matters little where you have been or what you have done - you can always turn to the Father in heaven who forgives. He is in the business of making all things new. He can undo damage we have done to ourselves and even heal the wounds we may have inflicted on others

It’s all pictured so well in Jesus’ story about a son who disappeared with half his dad’s money. He wasted it all on drunkenness and wild living, forming more than a few permanent bonds with many different women. He came to his senses, and decided to go home. He hoped that his dad would have enough pity on him to hire him to clean the barns. Well it turns out the old man saw him coming and ran down the driveway to meet him. He hugged him and before the son could give words to his apology, the father welcomed the son, called over his shoulder to the guy at the punchbowl to start up the band.

The son was home! The son had a second chance, a fresh start and it was like the years of wandering had never happened.

Grace always rules the day for those who answer the call to come home.



Blessings,



John

Monday, July 18, 2016

Seven Marks Of A False Prophet

By John Stallings


Listen to Paul.in Philippians ...

Beware of dogs; beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision. Phi.3:2

Preach the Word; be instant in season out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap unto themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. --2 Timothy 4:2-4

We’re in a time when many of God’s people won’t endure sound doctrine. We are here now;

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.—1 Timothy 4:1-2

For among my people are found wicked men; they lay wait as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? ---Jer.5:26/30-31.

When Paul calls someone a dog, he’s speaking of false teachers. Since dogs in our time are called man’s best friend, and loved by most everyone it’s too bad that in the Bible dogs are almost always seen in a negative light. This would be because in that day dogs ran wild, had no masters, and were considered filthy & dangerous.

You and I should be careful that we never brand people as false prophets just because they don’t agree with us on every detail of our theology. When we go there, we get into the harmful judging we’re warned against.

Watch the example Paul sets. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul speaks about meat that was sacrificed to idols. He clearly calls people confused about eating or not eating it. He says they are brothers who just don’t have sufficient knowledge. Paul makes it clear that God loves the people on both sides of the debate. He isn’t calling them false prophets or “dogs.” Paul states what he believes to be the true but says, “an idol is nothing, but not everyone knows this.” Paul isn’t going to get his knickers in a knot about the issue.

If we move to Romans 14 &15 Paul goes further into it. He starts off by telling us to “receive those who are weak in the faith &don’t get embroiled in doubtful disputes.” Too much labeling & line-drawing is done today &God is displeased with it. Certainly we aren’t to compromise the truth or our convictions, but neither are we to be “Holy Ghost juniors” setting ourselves up as judges.

Dogs or false teachers will always be with us. Listen to the words of Jesus;

And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold……For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matt. 24:11-12/24.

Many people love the smooth sayings of false teachers. Listen to Peter;

But there were false prophets among the people even as there will be false prophets among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that brought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:1-3

Listen to John;

--Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of the anti-Christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.---1 John 4:1-3

Paul told Timothy;

Holding faith and a good conscience which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:19-20

“Who let these dogs out?” I think it’s rather obvious that Satan is the father of all these “dogs” who spew forth lies in the name of God. If we read Revelation we’ll see many other dogs will be released in the end-time.

Seven marks of a false prophet or DOG...

1. A FALSE PROPHET IS A MAN PLEASER

A false prophet will never tell us-inconvenient truths.Micah 23:16-17 says,--Thus saith the Lord, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord.

We wouldn’t go to a doctor who would rub Vaseline on a cancer & we need to be careful listening to a ministry that never rocks the boat or tells us “thus saith the Lord.” Salvation is more than a fire- escape but Jesus had so much to say about sin, it’s consequence & eternal hell, you’d think a man/woman would mention these things at least once or twice every ten years or so. In my view a preacher who doesn’t declare the whole council of God has zero credibility, isn’t scripturally balanced & is probably a people pleaser. Acts 20:26-27.

2. A FALSE PROPHET SCORNS & OPPOSES TRUE MINISTERS OF GOD.

In Numbers 16 a man named Korah gathered others around him & went to Moses challenging his leadership. The narrative tells us that Moses fell on his face. Moses just collapsed right there. We might interpret it that Moses fell in humility & in a prayerful way but it seems to me Moses was so stunned at his core he fell out from the shock.

Moses may have fallen because he was aghast at these men rebelling against his leadership when they were there all through the wilderness journey. These men saw how God used Moses & the great miracles God wrought to keep these people alive, but they rose up against God’s man anyway. God dealt with this in a harsh way [He opened the earth and it swallowed them] as He will always do at some point when his anointed leaders are assailed.

It’s the mark of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing to have the unmitigated gall to  rise up against & oppose the work a true man/woman of God is doing.

3. A FALSE PROPHET GIVES UNTRUE PROPHESIES & VISIONS.

Then the Lord said unto me, the prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision, and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.—Jer.14:14

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord. Jer. 23:16

This is sort of funny but I once was a pulpit guest in a church where the pastor (a very fine man) felt he was highly favored & mightily used of God to foresee events. One night after our service he “felt led” to drive across town & pray for a man who was having some difficulties.

It was a cold rainy night & the pastor’s wife was against him going & told him he could pray for the man & go see him the next day. But nothing would make him happy until the brother had me in the car & we headed out into the bleak night to “take care of business.” I was a little embarrassed for my preacher friend when we arrived at the house & the man wasn’t home. Now I didn’t think any less of my friend because of this because in truth, though I loved & respected him, I never had that much confidence in his radar anyway. Even at best, “We prophesy in part.” We need to be careful when we use the words “God told me.”

4. A FALSE PROPHET MAJORS ON MINORS.

From which some have swerved and have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.-1 Timothy 1:5-6

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to Godliness. He is proud knowing nothing but doting about questions and strifes of words where cometh envy, strife, railing , evil surmisings, perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth supposing that gain is Godliness; from such withdraw thyself. 1 Tim.6:3-5.

Did you notice the words “vain-jangling? That sounds like a good song-title doesn’t it? That’s the best way to describe what you get from a lot of media ministry nowadays, vain-jangling! When someone offers me a miracle wallet telling me if I send them an offering the wallet will never be empty, I wonder why they don’t just keep all those wallets & use the money that’s obviously already in them.

Please don’t misunderstand, I believe strongly in the miraculous power of God who can move in wondrous & supernatural ways. I also believe in giving & remain open to God in the area of giving, even to ministries I don’t personally know. But some things don’t pass the smell test to me.

5. A FALSE PROPHET WILL DISGUISE DANGEROUS TEACHING WITH ELOQUENCE.

Now I beseech you brethren mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them. For they serve not our Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18.

Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain; and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in their gainsaying of Korah. -- Jude 11

These are murmurers, complainers walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. ---Jude 16

6. A FALSE PROPHET WANTS TO MAKE A CONVERT NOT CHANGE A LIFE.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte and when he is made ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Matthew 23:15

7. A FALSE PROPHET IS COVETOUS.

For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophets even unto the priest everyone dealeth falsely. Jer.6:13

In my reading of the New Testament, no one has a periscope quite like Peter’s. It’s well worth the time to reread the second chapter of his second little letter where he deals with the destructiveness, the doom &  depravity of false teachers.Though this passage was previously used, listen to it again;

Peter says “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you, whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not and their damnation slumbereth not.-2:4

These false prophets want “your goods,” but not “your good.”

It pains me to turn on my TV or go to a church service & have someone tell the people in essence that EVERYTHING God will do for them is determined on how much money they give. As far as I’m concerned when they do this they cross the line, they go too far. These people to me are the same as spiritual “wife-beaters.” Any time an individual arbitrarily picks out an amount of money he/she wants folk to send them, then turns around and makes it an “obedience” issue, if they don’t respond; IMHO they’ve wandered off the reservation big time. This hard core sell to me is no less than “spiritual rape.”

How are they different than the Catholic Church before the Reformation when they were selling indulgences? Answer; they aren’t different!

How can a God-called individual tell people (as a TV evangelist did) “If you have $79.00 in your bank account that’s not going to help you, I dare you to close that account & send me that money?” The person who bites on that, unless they’ve really heard from God will in all probability be asking their church to pay their household bills in a few days.

How about this one, “I want you to post-mark that offering within three days. If you don’t send it in three days I don’t want it  we won’t accept it. God said three days!” How about this one, “You & I working together are going to be millionaires.” There are TV ministries I believe are sincere & I’ll go so far as to say that the majority are open & honest, but religious charlatans abound today. These people who are on giant ego trips & they’re in it for the money. I can best describe them using my grandmother’s favorite word, “superficiality.”

It’s easy to just turn our ears away and refuse to listen to these evil teachers. We already have seen that we should avoid false teachers. But we also need to stand against some of the excesses that abound today, know about the errors that are being taught and we need to be prepared to defend the truth when it becomes necessary.

Banks train tellers to spot counterfeit money by letting them spend time handling & acquainting themselves with real money. When we come upon these false teachers, we need to be fortified with truth and the best way to do that is to stay in the Word of God.

In Acts 8:18-20, a man named Simon wanted to buy the Holy Spirit’s power from the apostles. He knew if he had that power he could make a fortune with it. But Peter told him his money would perish with him because he thought the gift of God could be purchased with money.

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:13-15.

I know thy works, and thy labor and thy patience and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles and are not, and hast found them liars….. Revelation 2:2

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, And idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. Rev.2:2

Be careful, be very careful…

The DOGS are out.


Blessings,


John

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Not Global Warming.....Global Groaning!

By John Stallings

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


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

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

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

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

Paul tells us that creation itself groans for redemption:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT DEATH PANGS-BUT BIRTH PANGS!

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

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

GLOBAL GROANING

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

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

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

EARTHQUAKES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FLOODS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound strange? Not really!

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

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

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

THEN PAUL SHIFTS FROM CREATION..TO US!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Blessings,

John

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Truth Has Fallen In The Street..."

By John Stallings


And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.-Isaiah 59:14


 A while back the world has had  a ring-side seat to watch, obviously a world-class liar, bicyclists Lance Armstrong admit that he's weaved a web of lies for years about his use of performance enhancing drugs. 

How frustrating is that? It seems that to him  the truth isn't a valued coin  in the realm he inhabits.As the poet said,  "Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive."

 When I was a kid growing up, occasionally something untoward would happen that nobody wanted to admit any knowledge of. Mom would say with her voice slightly tinged with cynicism, " Well, it looks like "Mr. nobody" struck again." In other words, good luck in finding the culprit here.

On the subject of lies we could cast our eyes to our nation's capitol where lies are an everyday occurrence. 

There's a funny story about a man who was being sworn in as a witness in a court case and as he put his hand on the Bible  was asked if he'd tell- "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," whereupon he asked, "Well which of the three do you want.?"

Orlando was abuzz some time back after the disappearance of three year old Caylee Anthony.

There can be no doubt that Caylee’s mother; Casey Anthony’s trial was the trial of the century. You may be familiar with the details of the case; - the body of the beautiful Caylee was found in a decomposed state and her mother Casey was accused of her murder by the State of Florida.

The trial started in May and after 33 days of testimony, 400 pieces of evidence and more than 90 witnesses, the jury in the Casey Anthony case reached a verdict.

After just a day of deliberation, jurors informed the court at midday that they had reached a decision, and both sides in the case were ordered to assemble in the courtroom.

Anthony was found not guilty of killing her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee. She was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. But she was convicted on charges of misleading law enforcement.

The case against Anthony was mostly circumstantial, but as it unfolded she was portrayed in the trial as a promiscuous, self-centered woman who became a cold-blooded killer. The motive, prosecutors alleged, was to allow her to live a carefree life without her daughter.

The state's case theory was that a desperate Anthony used chloroform to subdue her daughter and then suffocated her with duct tape. Anthony then fabricated fantastic lies to cover up her deeds, they said. Anthony's attorney Jose Baez told the jury his client was the victim of an abusive upbringing.

As soon as Casey was found not-guilty of murder, a tidal wave of protests began which may hound the woman to her grave or a mental hospital.

BORN TO LIE?

Though people had varying opinions as to the guilt of Casey, one thing everyone agreed on was that she was the most prolific and proficient liar anyone had ever seen in action.

Casey started lying at an early age. Although a good student, she dropped out of high school in her senior year not long before she would have graduated. Because she’s also sneaky, her mother didn’t find out she’d quit school for weeks after the fact but when she finally uncovered the truth, she took Casey’s side and tried to help her cover it up. Do we see a pattern here?

Casey’s grandmother went to the school graduation and was non-plussed when Casey was nowhere to be seen. She confronted her daughter about it and while she was at it, dropped the bombshell that Casey had stolen a blank check from her and bought clothes. But this was “small-ball” to Casey.

One thing for sure about Casey; she’s  a double-barreled liar and obviously prefers a lie when the truth would sound better.

LIES, LIES, AND MORE LIES

It used to be that truth was pretty obvious. Truth was truth. We see that in the well known language of the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Today, however, we live in a different climate. Truth is no longer “self-evident,” as is clearly seen and acknowledged by everyone.

Truth is now, apparently, only evident-to-one’s-self. What’s “true” for one person can apparently be “not true” to another. Our culture has largely rejected the idea of Absolute Truth, and has ridiculed and marginalized those of us who still cling to such a concept.

The verse in Isaiah 59 likens life to a street, or an expressway, and it says that something has fallen in the Street.

TRUTH HAS FALLEN IN THE STREET.

Because truth has blocked the street, equity cannot get by. Consequently, judgment is turned away backward. Judgment drives down the street, comes to a blockade, and finds truth lying prostrate in the street. There is no way to get by it. Judgment turns and walks back. There is no proper judgment. Why? Truth has fallen in the street.

The verse goes on to say, "Justice standeth afar off." Justice comes down the road and wants by, but justice can’t get by. Why? -Because justice, like judgment, is built on truth. If there is no truth, there is no justice. If there is no truth, there is no judgment. Judgment is turned away backward and justice stands afar off and says, "I can't get by." Why? Truth has fallen in the street.

The verse says, "Truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter."

Next, equity comes down the street, and finds that truth has fallen, and, because truth has fallen and is blocking traffic, equity can’t enter. Consequently, there’s a traffic jam. All because truth has fallen in the street.

In the Orlando area we depend mainly on one big  artery called I-4. I can’t count the times over the years that we’ve been stranded on I-4, sometimes for hours. Usually when we’re finally able to see what’s happened, someone has rear-ended another car, or more likely an eighteen wheeler has jack-knifed and scattered its contents all over the road.

To state the obvious, when somebody blocks the street, nothing can get through. An ambulance cannot get through. Somebody going to the hospital in a car can't get through. Why? The street is blocked.

Isaiah looks at his generation and says, "We have one great problem. Judgment has to turn and go back. Justice has to stand afar off. Equity can't get by. Truth is fallen in the street."

Just about everything except Christianity is welcome on most of America’s college compasses. They’ll accept everything but the truth. The truth is not accepted as the truth anymore. That’s why we have confusion. We need to get truth up again and quit blockading justice, equity, and judgment.

The problems in our land today stem from the fact that we have quit exalting truth.

Hundreds of churches are empty because there's no truth. Truth has fallen in the streets. If our churches are ever to be full and growing again, and influencing our society again, you're going to have to get truth up and say, "This is true, and this is error; this is right, and this is wrong."

There will never be a virile Christianity, there will never be a church that will affect and influence society until the church says, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is truth!" As long as the Bible may or may not be so, justice will not pass, judgment will have to go back, and equity will not be able to pass in the street.

I heard a little story the other day that illustrates so well what is going on in so many places.

There was a rural area that had a lot of barns. These were not just any barns. These barns had targets painted on them. The interesting thing was that there was a bullet hole in the bulls-eye of all of the targets.

All the neighbors knew that this had to be some pretty good shooting. They also knew who it had to be. It had to be Zeek. Zeek’s fame went far and wide as the best sharp shooter in the valley. One day someone was congratulating him and asking him how he managed to hit the bull’s-eye every time.

"It ain't hard," he said. "I just shoot the barn and then I paint a circle around the bullet hole!"

What’s happening to truth is not hard to see! People embrace a “truth” and then in pride and arrogance draw a bull’s-eye around it, pretending they’ve “hit the mark.”

There are three things I want to say about truth.

1. TRUTH DOESN'T DIE.

Truth doesn’t die. It falls in the street, but it doesn’t die. Truth will not die.

The Bible is still the Word of God. Jesus Christ is still the virgin-born Son of God. Our natures are sinful by birth. Christ died for sinners. We must be born again to go to Heaven. There is a Heaven that has golden streets and gates of pearl. There is a Hell that has fire.

You could listen to some preachers until your hair turned green and never hear them mention hell. Although I don’t enjoy saying it, If I believed there was no Hell, I would close my Bible. If I believed there was no Hell, I would stop preaching. After all, Jesus told us most of what we know about hell and He wasn’t a liar. If He told a lie about hell, why would I bother to believe anything else He said? Truth does not change. Truth never changes.

Just because someone has a degree doesn't change truth. The Bible is still true. Christ is still God's Son. Hell is still hot. Hell is still fire. The temperature in hell hasn’t changed one degree since Pontius Pilate and Adolph Hitler went. Heaven is still real. Salvation is still available. The new birth is still a necessity, if we want to go to heaven. Truth doesn’t die.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS ABOUT TRUTH

God is a God of truth - Deut 32:4
Jesus is the truth, and full of truth, and spoke the truth - Jn 14:6; 1:14; 8:45
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and guided the apostles into all the truth - Jn 14:17; 16:13
The Word of God is truth - Jn 17:17
The judgments of God are according to truth - Ps 96:13; Ro 2:2
Christians should walk in the truth as revealed by Jesus, including the standard of morality He taught - cf. Ep 4:17-32;5:1-17
Christians should patiently teach others the truth - cf. 2 Ti 2:23-26
Many will turn their ears away from the truth - cf. 2Ti 4:1-4

Much more could be said, as the Bible reveals so much about what is truth.

2. TRUTH NEEDS HELP.

Truth does not die, but truth needs help.

Do you recall that story of the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road to Gaza in Acts 8? Philip is coming down through the desert place, and he sees the eunuch in a chariot reading the Prophet Isaiah. Philip comes down and sees him reading Isaiah 53.

Philip cries, "Hey, do you understand what you're reading?" The eunuch replies from his chariot, "How can I, except some man should guide me?"

 If there is one chapter in the Bible that would tell a man how to be saved, its Isaiah 53.

If there is one chapter in the Old Testament that pictures Jesus Christ dying for sinners, its Isaiah, Chapter 53.

If there is one chapter in the Old Testament, the Scripture he had available at that time, that would tell the eunuch easily and simply how to be saved, its Isaiah 53.

And yet, he shouted, "How can I except some man should guide me?" This man needed help!

Truth needs help.

 Truth needs a man/woman. Truth needs proclaiming. Truth needs preaching. Truth needs declaring. Truth needs to be lifted high. And that's why the writer inspired the Apostle Luke to quote the eunuch saying, 

"How can I, except some man should guide me?"

Truth once stood erect. Once truth stood and pointed the way. Now it lies in the street.

3. WITHOUT TRUTH THERE IS NO WAY!

The One who said, "I am the Truth," also said, "I am the Way." When the Truth falls, the Way falls. For He who is truth is also the way.

John Wycliffe was, of course, martyred for his Christian stand. They hated him so much they dug his body up, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes. They put his ashes in the Avon River, and then they went down to the sea. They hated John Wycliffe that much. It was not enough to kill him. They did not want his body lying whole, or intact, in the grave. They dug his body, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes in the river. Fox wrote about that in Fox's book of Martyrs and said that God made it so, for the ashes and the body of John Wycliffe was as his message. His ashes were placed in the Avon, and from there they floated to the sea, and from there they floated to the oceans, and from there, around the world. The truth that John Wycliffe preached cannot die and his body did as the truth he wouldn’t denounce. It went around the world.

Our nation totters on the brink of destruction. We're not that far from being a socialist nation today. We totter on the brink! Why? Truth is no longer truth. Right is no longer right. Integrity is no longer integrity. There is no black and white. Everything is a misty gray.

I thank God for the Tea-Party, because I see them as the people. We need to pray that their ranks will grow and that they’ll keep their hearts right. It’s strange that the Lefties have a distaste for calling terrorism by its real name but they have no problem calling the Tea Partiers terrorists. Truth has been stood on its head and spun like top.

Nobody is dogmatic about truth anymore. Nobody says, "This is it," anymore. Consequently, truth falls in the street. When truth falls in the street, the way also falls and people not being able to find the way end up confused. Everybody today is looking for the answer. Everybody wants the way out. Our leaders are meeting day and night trying to find a way out for America. It seems that everyone is confused.

When truth falls in the street, the Supreme Court becomes confused.

When truth falls in the street, our Congress doesn’t know what laws to make.


When truth falls in the street, our leaders grope in darkness.


When truth falls in the street, our young folk become anarchists.


When truth falls in the street, every man does that which is right in his own eyes.


TRUTH OPENS UP THE THOROUGHFARE

Truth always allows equity to pass and always allows judgment and justice to pass. Truth, when it is standing erect, easily points the way! But when truth falls, equity cannot enter. When truth falls, there is No Way. Truth must be adhered to whether popular or unpopular, whether accepted or rejected, whether liked or hated.

We must point people to the One who is the truth, for He who is the truth is the way. Jesus said- "I am the way, the truth, and the life." John 14:6

Jesus didn’t say, "I am the way, and someone else is the truth, and someone else is the life." No. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

All of it hinges on the truth.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

No truth, No way. -No way, No life. First comes the truth. If the truth is not preached, you won't know the way, and if the way is not known, you will not have life.

Our medical scientists are working day and night to give us life. If we want life, we've got to find the way.

THE BIBLE IS TRUTH

Where is the truth? The Bible is the truth. Every word of it is true. When this truth falls in the street, we lose our way and man dies without God. When this truth is picked up off the street and held and preached, man can find the way through Jesus Christ to life and life eternal.

Truth says that all of us are sinners. What is the truth? The truth is, as sinners we are lost. What is the truth? The truth is, Jesus Christ became sin. He was the perfect substitute accepted by God, and on the cross bore our sins in His body on the tree. What is the truth? The truth is that Christ was buried and our sins were buried with Him.

What is the truth?

The truth is when you are born again, you receive Christ, by faith, as your Savior. What is the truth? The truth is you can be saved this very moment. What is the truth? The truth is: If you, right now, would acknowledge the fact that you’re a sinner and that Christ died for your sins and receive Him personally as your sacrifice and your hope for Heaven, you could be saved. What is the truth? The truth is you could have your named registered in heaven if you’ve not already done so. That's the truth.

What is the truth?

Jesus is coming soon. The truth is that those whose bodies have decayed in the grave shall become like the Lord Jesus Christ, and those of us who live at His coming and are saved will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Then for seven years hell will break loose on planet earth. A man claiming to be God will take over the reins and put most of the world in servitude to him. He’ll bring the world out of economic disaster. Confused mankind who’d been looking for an answer will see his success and turn to him and worship him.

Listen to John the Revelator on that time..

2Thess 2:8-12: "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

What is the truth? 

The truth is- In order to go to Heaven; you've got to receive Christ as your personal Savior. What is the truth? The truth is not that you join the church or live a good life or turn over a new leaf. The truth is: You have to be born again.

There are still places where truth  stands tall. Where truth has not fallen in the street, and because truth is not fallen, the way is still plain…

You can live forever through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the truth!



Blessings,



John

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Hedge Prayers

by John Stallings


…..I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, & stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it: but I found none.---Ezekiel 22:30


Over the years I’ve preached in all kinds of churches in all the states but two, & in dozens of foreign countries.

We’ve ministered in small humble churches at the end of dusty country roads, some with as few as twenty or thirty in attendance. The people were friendly but after you’d been there a few nights you knew who to expect because no new ones ever came in. We’d stay for a while, sing & preach our hearts out & leave with sadness because there was no weeping for the lost & unless someone got a prayer burden & started standing in the gap for the unsaved, nothing was going to happen there.

We’ve been to large churches occupying beautifully landscaped property with big impressive driveways & were amazed at the vastness & physical beauty of the facilities.

The auditorium was massive, the stage well appointed & the sound system & acoustics as good as any major recording studio. Sadly there weren’t enough people to fill a third of the seats & they sat scattered all over the sanctuary. They made us feel welcome, were generous in their giving, & we were treated like royalty but we’d leave with a heavy heart knowing that until they started praying for souls they’d pretty much reached a stalemate.

We’ve been to churches that were filled to overflowing who knew all about promotion & every meeting was well attended. But there was no move of God in the place. The worship was stiff & formal & the people seemed to be there mostly for social reasons. No one would ever linger at the alter. The folk enjoyed fellowship with each other but their eyes were dry. We would leave knowing the church wouldn’t make much progress until someone started praying for a revival.

But by God’s grace over the years we’ve often been able to make a contribution in spiritually dry places & see things turned around. Indeed this was the purpose of our being there.

Many other places we went were brimming over with enthusiasm & Holy Ghost fire & we just worshipped with them, enjoying the spirit that already prevailed in the church. Prayer warriors had already paid the price to see God move in all His marvelous power. These churches we’d leave refreshed & reinvigorated.

We’ve concluded It makes little difference if a church is large or small, has a great location or a poor one, its people are educated or uneducated, belongs to a denomination or is as independent as a yard dog; if there are no broken hearts, if no one is “standing in the gap & making up the hedge,” & praying to see souls born into the kingdom, they won’t see revival.

Most people agree we are living in desperate times but regrettably the church isn’t desperate before God in prayer.

If you came from my generation or anywhere near it you’ll remember “hedge praying” because it used to be done frequently. We prayed a wall of protection around people who were traveling, (they used to call it traveling mercies) going under a surgeons knife, & protection when hurricanes were coming. We prayed for folk with flat feet & fallen arches. If you got around those old timers with a problem, you’d better keep it to yourself or they’d oil you up, lay hands on you, & get you set free.

Somewhere along the line the concept of hedge praying fell by the wayside & as a result our nation is now in a mess. Divorces are up, millions of innocent babies killed & prayer has been taken out of our schools. As of this week, in one state, we have eleven year old school girls being put on birth control pills without parental consent. Need I go on?

I have written in other blogs about how I rebelled as a teenager & my mother “hedged me in from all sides” with prayer that her son wouldn’t go into sin & lose his soul. I know from first hand experience what it means to be prayed into the kingdom of God.

Here’s an encouraging fact; there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can’t be accomplished by prayer.

The 21st century church is supposed to be a model of the first century church but it’s painful to admit there isn’t that much resemblance. The first century church i.e. the church in the book of Acts was founded in prayer & was totally dependent on God. They prayed with unity, they prayed with authority, they prayed in one accord, they prayed with thanksgiving, they prayed with expectation, they prayed in faith & they prayed continually. They saw jails burst open, the sick & afflicted healed, they prayed down Pentecostal power in Acts chapter two & that power catapulted Christianity around the world. Even as the first martyr Stephen was being stoned, he was praying.

History reveals when Christians aren’t praying they’re straying. Leonard Ravenhill said, “The fires of our alters are burning very low. The prayer meeting is dead or dying. By our lack of prayer are we telling God that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh?”

When Satan confronted God concerning Job, his complaint was that he was unable to touch Job because God had placed a hedge about him.

Hast not thou made an hedge about him & about his house & about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands & his substance is increased in the land.”---Job 2:6

God agreed to lift the hedge but only to a degree, so Satan was permitted to take away his possessions, his sons, and his health, but not his life.

I’ve had folk ask me--  "if God has a hedge around me, why do they have so many problems?" My answer is, were it not for God’s protection, Satan would kill us all at the moment of our conversion to Christ.

In Ezekiel 22:30 God said, And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge & stand in the gap before me for the land that I should destroy it but I found none.

Over the years I’ve observed that there are countless people who will “point out the gap,” but few who will step into the gap. We have an excess of “gap-pointers” these days. They know all the weaknesses of the church but they won’t do much to fix them.

When I was a kid, my father taught me not to criticize until I could “show how.” He’d say, “Try doing what you’re criticizing. If you know so much about something & you’re constantly criticizing, why don’t you get in there & give a demonstration. The world is waiting.”

I remember once when I was a kid chopping wood. My dad came up & told me what I was doing wrong. He said I was “just wearing myself out swinging the ax wrong.” I stopped & handed the ax to him & asked him to by all means teach me to chop better.

With a grin on his face he took the ax & began to drop the blade on the log, with almost effortless swings. But when the ax hit wood, huge chunks flew off. With one lesson he showed me that there was an effectual way to use an ax. He didn’t just criticize, he showed me how. I learned to use a hammer & other tools the same way.

When I was in Junior High school I played baseball on a Kiwanis team. Even with young guys pitching, the ball crossed the plate so fast it looked like an aspirin tablet. I learned early that it’s not easy to hit a fastball & if you’ve tried it you know I’m right. Yet you can go to games & hear people cursing at the hitters, chiding them for not hitting. Having stood there as a batter myself you won’t hear me screaming at batters. My advice to these critical yee-haws is; — “try doing what you’re criticizing.”

I had an acquaintance that once sat on a piano bench & critiqued all my songs. He knew a little music & he'd yammer on & on. The one question I was too polite to ask him was, “where are your hit songs?As a matter of fact, where are any songs you've written?"

Moses stood in the gap for his people after they built the golden calf. God was threatening to kill them all & start over again.

Psalms 106:23 says, --Therefore He said that He would destroy them had not Moses His chosen stood before them in the breach, to turn away His wrath lest He should destroy them.

Abraham stood in the gap for Sodom & but ten righteous men couldn’t be found so God destroyed that wicked city.

If you have a loved one or friend on the wrong path & being influenced by ungodly friends, I believe praying a hedge around them will change their life. They have a God-given free- will but God knows how to influence people to cause a change of heart & mind.

Some people say that God will never force people to do anything they don’t want to do. They haven’t read the Bible. In general a person must exercise their free will & obey God from a willing heart, but it doesn’t always happen that way, especially when they’re targeted by hedge prayers.

Do you remember the New Testament Saul? God knew he wasn’t going down easy so He knocked him down & blinded him on the Damascus Turnpike. Then God said, (and this is the SIV—Stallings International Version) “Saul, you can either do what I tell you & get ready to preach my gospel or here’s a seeing-eye dog & a tin-cup & main street is two blocks south.”

The wonderful thing about a hedge prayer or any kind of intercessory prayer for that matter is that people are helpless to stop it. They might close & lock their doors & refuse to let you in, but prayer will go right through that locked door & gain entry into the inner-sanctuary of their hearts.

Keep in mind that Satan can petition God for access to us, just as he did Job. Sometimes when tragedy strikes us, it’s not God punishing us it’s because Satan has asked for temporary permission to test us. When this happens we should do as Job did & endure it with patience.

Jesus, foretelling the destruction of Judea, used the hedge example. He knew that the Jews knew what He meant when He said,

A certain man planted a vineyard & set an hedge about it & digged a place for the wine vat, & built a tower & let it out to the husbandmen & went into a far country.

And at the season he sent to the husbandman a servant that he might receive from the husbandman of the fruit of the vineyard.

And they caught him & beat him & sent him away empty.

And again he sent unto another servant and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.

And again he sent another and him they killed and many others beating some & killing some.

Having yet therefore one son His well beloved son He sent Him also last unto them saying, they will reverence my son.

But these husbandmen said among themselves, this is the heir come let us kill him & the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him & killed him & cast him out of the vineyard.

What shall therefore the Lord of the vineyard do? He will come & destroy the husbandman & will give the vineyard unto others.

And have ye not read this scripture this is the Lords doing & it is marvelous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him but feared the people…..
Mark 12:1-12

This story tells how God set up Jerusalem & Judea as a vineyard with people to tend the land asking only for their praise & worship in return but they rebelled so He sent the prophets & they either stoned them or mistreated them.

God finally sent His Son Jesus whom they killed. History shows as a result God in His fury removed the hedge, (the nightly news reveals this) destroyed the husbandman, (gardeners) & gave the land to others.

Jesus stood in the gap for Israel as well as the world & died as a result.

America is at the crossroads. What happens in the next few months will see us go to another level & experience the rich blessings of God, or take a step downward. God stands with outstretched arms & says,

If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves & pray & seek my face & turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven & will forgive their sin & will heal their land.—2 Chronicles 7:14

Jesus said, -Lift up your eyes & behold the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His field.

God wants to see us loving & praying for the lost. It pleases Him to see His children seeking to add to His kingdom, & not seeking for self.

In the Bible from Genesis to Revelation you find that prayer was the practice of Patriarchs, Prophets & Apostles. Men would pray & lion’s mouths would be locked; oceans & rivers would split down the middle. Joshua prayed & the Sun stood still.

Jesus was perfect but He frequently prayed. His disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They saw His many miracles but never asked Him to teach them to do miracles, or to preach or to teach. They looked behind all of those things & knew prayer was His secret; so they cried, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

God’s Word says, -- As soon as Zion prevailed she brought forth her children.

We need to ask God to break our hearts for a dying world & become intercessors for friends, loved ones & lost people all around us.

We need only to ask the Holy Ghost to guide us in the endeavor.--HE WILL!


Blessings,

John