Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"So This Is The Thanks I Get..."

By John Stallings

People can be so picky and ungrateful.

I know. I've served them for more decades than I’d like to think about and bear the wounds in my psyche to prove it.

 You pour your heart out. You give unstintingly of your time and your energy and so often it goes unnoticed, unappreciated, or taken for granted. Even worse, you get picked at by some well-meaning -- and some not-so-well-meaning -- folk who feel that God has given them “the gift of criticism.” In truth they have the “gift of sandpapering the saints.” Thankfully this description doesn't apply to ALL of God’s people!!!

Feel unappreciated? Understand that you’re in good company.

If I were to recount all the leaders who were criticized and unappreciated, it would be a long list:

Moses leads God's people out of Egypt, but when times get tough they say,

 "You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

Only after his death do they really appreciate him. Some consolation prize!

Job lives a righteous life before God, but who appreciates him when the tide turns against him? His wife calls him a fool and his so-called friends try to hammer into his skull the message that it’s all his fault.

Just as an aside, let me add; you’ve never been beaten until you’ve been worked over by Self-righteous, Pharisaical Christians who browbeat you with a Bible. They will even use verses against you that were meant to build you up. Poor Job. What an awful whipping!!

Jeremiah has the unhappy mission of declaring to Israel that Jerusalem will be destroyed and the people will go into exile for their sins. Who appreciates him? No one. He is slandered, arrested, imprisoned, and called a traitor.Paul spends long, grueling years in missionary work, but some of the churches he himself founded discredit him. To his detractors in Corinth he bares his soul, and in his words you can feel his pain:

"We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

God's work can indeed take a heavy toll on us. Paul writes again to the Corinthians:

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." (2 Cor. 1:8)

Then, when he has recovered a tad, he tells them:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

In the midst of the incredible pressure, he receives strength from God that helps him to make it through.

Jesus said:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

An unmarried evangelist acquaintance of mine has done much for the cause of Christ including writing several books on dealing with discouragement.

He tells of the time when he’d just gotten through speaking to a large convention and felt his work wasn’t understood and his efforts to encourage people had missed the mark. He was devastated. He called his fiancĂ© and poured his heart out to her that evening and when he’d finished he heard her say in a cryptic tone, “sounds to me like you ought to read some of those books you wrote.”

Years later my preacher friend is still single and by all accounts his former lady friend is also. I could be wrong but I think he was looking for someone to encourage him in his valley experiences.

Satan is hard at work to magnify our hurts, rip off the scabs covering our wounds, and to fan flickering flames of anger in our broken hearts until they bursts into a conflagration that is out-of-control and terribly destructive -- of ourselves and those around us.

There have been times in my life when I felt I was in a rowboat filling up with the water of hurt and bitterness. If I didn't keep bailing it out, bailing it out, the bitterness would soon overwhelm the boat and I would sink in self-pity.

When I read Jesus' words, I am rebuked;

"Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." (Luke 6:35)

I hear Jesus telling us that real love doesn't give to get, it gives without expecting to get anything back. Most T.V ministers won’t tell us this. Many Christians have so far to go in this walk! Jesus told us that his Father is "kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Sometimes our thoughts haven't been very kind.

 Pardon me for pointing out the obvious but-- everything we do must be done UNTO GOD!!!

I've learned that I cannot afford to let anger and bitterness grow in my spirit. I must flush them out to the Lord every day in prayer, sometimes many times in the day, whenever those feelings of hurt and self-defense begin to rise up in me. I've needed a lot of flushing in my life and times. How about you?

Again, if you and I are to avoid deadly discouragement-don't serve the Church, don’t serve people-- serve Christ. The Church might (or might not) write you a paycheck, but it’s not your real employer. Paul's admonition to slaves speaks to my own wounded spirit:

"Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free." (Ephesians 6:7-8, NRSV)

Sometimes we forget whom we really serve. When people are ungrateful, we want to tell them off and quit. But then God reminds us that he’s the one who called us; that we’re serving him first of all.

An assurance that he was serving God was the only thing that kept Moses going through a hailstorm of criticism. It's all that kept Jeremiah on track when everyone told him he was wrong.

You and I serve God, not people -- really. We are mediators of God's love for them, and if, by God's grace, that love can flow through us in spite of our hurts, in spite of our buffeting, then we can continue to minister to them on behalf of God. But if Satan can shut off the love, he has neutralized us.

By the grace of God I’ve stayed on the rails for well over half a century by constantly reminding myself---I one day want to hear one simple sentence spoken to me personally by Jesus:

"Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

I want God to be pleased with me. It doesn't matter if people are selfish and critical, insensitive and unappreciative. All that really matters is God's approval. That is why I serve, because I love him.
David was playing beautiful harp music and dodging Saul’s javelin at the same time. Sometimes we have to “serve and duck.” But David learned a secret while he existed for years on the LAM; the secret was to encourage himself in the Lord.

I want to challenge you to become a one-person encouragement center. Look for people who are serving Christ in your church, see what they’re doing for Christ, and then stop to encourage them.

"Your piano playing is such a blessing to me."
"You certainly do a wonderful job with the children."
"I can see your heart for the Lord as you take special care to have the church clean and fresh every Sunday morning for worship. Thank you!"

If you feel under-appreciated, don't wallow in your misery. Get up and start actively giving to others what you yourself desire. Start a verbal appreciation campaign. Get some other folks to join you. Set a pattern of appreciation that will overtake your entire church and community.

While you're at it, go out of your way to show appreciation to your pastor and family. Tell them with your words they are loved and appreciated. And then give them a little gift that says, "We love you, we care." A home-cooked dinner that they don't have to prepare. A weekend away, all expenses paid. A card that says, "I appreciate your ministry." A special gift on the pastor's anniversary of ministry at your church -- that puts a huge "Yes!" in the appreciation column. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus tells us:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." (Matthew 25:35)

When you encourage others, you’re serving Christ himself. When you speak words of appreciation, you’re speaking Christ's words. When you encourage, you’re doing Christ's work. When you hug -- physically or figuratively -- you show Christ's love in a way that can be felt.

I must admit that we’re surrounded by way too many insensitive, critical, ungrateful people. Maybe that's all they know. By our example, we can begin to change that. We can begin to establish a new pattern of thanks and support, of caring and appreciation. We can set a pattern of love, by which outsiders can discern that we are indeed Jesus' disciples (John 13:35). It starts with me -- and you.

One passage of scripture sticks in my head and plays itself over and over. Let me share it with you, so it can repeat itself in your brain until it does its work:

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58, RSV).


The story of the prodigal or lost son is probably one of the most familiar parables Jesus taught. A son rejects his living father as dead, wants to cash out his inheritance now, and run off with the money to party and live life to the fullest. The parable is about that ever-so-difficult homecoming when the lost son returned broken and empty-handed to beg for food and a place to stay from the father he’d disowned. Consider how the father and the older brother each reacted.

 The lost son was lost when he squandered all his father’s inheritance in wild living. Then he returned to his home and to his father, but when he arrives, in another way he’s still lost. He doesn't know his own father, so he comes on the grounds of his own merits. But he realizes that he’s shot any merits he’s had to oblivion. He’s a lost cause if ever there was one. He has no grounds or basis for re-admission to the house. To say he’d been a bad guy is an understatement. 

He had every right to expect that he’d be regarded as an outcast and one who’s disowned by the family. He’d decided to count his father as dead to himself, so that he could claim his share of the inheritance. He had every right to expect that he’d be regarded as dead to the family. So he comes to enter the household on the grounds of being a servant… the lowest position in the house, to plead for simple necessities of life--food, shelter and water. He thought he could work for his father to earn his keep, and be treated as a servant.

There was something right about his approach to his father. He came in humility and sorrow over what he’d done. It was a real offense against heaven and against his father that he couldn’t repair or undo.

It’s right that we approach God in true brokenness over our sin, acknowledging an utter dependence and need for His mercy. We shouldn’t be indifferent to our sin, as if God shouldn’t mind anyway, and come back thinking that God owed us anything. So in this way, the prodigal’s approach to his father was correct. True repentance of heart was necessary.

But the father was having none of it. He forgave his wayward son and restored him to full fellowship. Don’t we have a merciful Lord?

But -what about that older son? He was coming in from the field when he heard the music and dancing. He’d loyally labored long in the field for his father. He wasn’t so insolent and disrespectful as to demand his share of the inheritance to cash out and spend on wild living. He was moderate and respectful and carried out his duties. But he lacked his father’s love and concern for his brother.

When he heard the servant’s report that his brother had returned safe and sound, he should’ve cried with joy, “Where is he?!” He should’ve run to his brother with the same warm embrace of his father, to welcome the lost back home. He could’ve said, “I was worried about you, but I’m so glad that you’re alive. You can’t imagine how much father prayed for your safety and return. He was heartbroken when you left—you should’ve seen how he wept. We wish you’d never left. But welcome home brother—you’re back where you belong.”

Didn’t happen! The older brother was indignant. Angry that the father and family would celebrate the return of this rebel, this scoundrel, this disrespectful young man who’d shamed his family and their name. With self-righteous anger he lashes out: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fattened calf for him!”

As if to say: “This is the thanks I get for all the hard work I’ve done and the loyalty I’ve given?

 And you go and reward that miserable son of yours.” The contrast between the father and the older brother is so stark. That older brother, so far from loving his brother and showing concern for him, disowned him and counted him as dead. The older brother didn’t even acknowledge his family ties to the prodigal—calling him, “that son of yours.”  Maybe if the older brother would’ve received his younger brother back at all, he would only be satisfied if he were treated as a servant. “Make that miserable son work off his guilt. Let him labor in the purgatory of his own making and see if he can work off the guilt and shame he’s accumulated. Maybe after he’s suffered long enough, we can begin to think about whether he’s worthy of being called son and brother again. But he better not think he’s going to get off scott-free.”

The older brother apparently wants to call the father “back to his senses.” The father shows that he still loves the older son, and hasn’t forgotten him, saying: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” The father gently reminded his older son that he’d lost nothing as a result of the father’s mercy and forgiveness to the younger son. Everything the son had was still his, and he was just as much loved by the father. But it was necessary to celebrate the lost brother, because he was dead to the family, dead to God—but now he was alive and restored. He was lost—lost in rebellion, selfish pursuit of his own desires; lost pursuing the false and fleeting dreams of wealth and wild living—but now he was found. He was home in the fold, back in the family where he belonged—redeemed from the fatal influences of the worldly life he’d left behind. He was truly found.

When have we been like that older brother? Indignant and jealous of the mercy and kindness shown to such a sinner. Would we be ashamed or too offended to call as our brother, one who had fallen so far and come back? One who had insulted and dishonored our father, who wasted the family inheritance on prostitutes and reckless living? Would we expect them to crawl back on hands and knees and continue to suffer the shame and regret of their sin, until we counted them worthy to stand and be counted as a brother—as part of the family? Or would we continue to deny them welcome into the family?

Sometimes there’s a sense of entitlement and privilege that can creep out of our sinful nature, even as Christians….hopefully not in such blatant ways. But there’s nothing Christian at all about having such a sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. Our sinful nature will express itself one way or another, whether or not we’re involved in open sins. In the case of the younger brother, the sinful nature expressed itself through open and brash acts of sin and immorality. In the case of the older brother, he wasn’t openly sinning, but his sinful nature manifested itself in his jealousy, loveless ness, and lack of concern for his brother. 

This is often how that sinfulness manifests itself in us as Christians. We might act like we’ve earned our place (we haven’t), we might act like our record is cleaner than the rest (it isn’t), and we might act like the church would be a better place if there weren’t so many sinners here. (We’re all sinners!).

Now the church is not told to associate with openly unrepentant sinners—those who still cling to their sin and won’t repent—in fact the church is to avoid such association. But that’s completely different from welcoming the repentant, the sorrowful, and the lost who seek the mercy of God. We are the same. We call on the same mercy for our sin, so we ought to welcome such people with the same open embrace that our heavenly Father does. We should celebrate whenever lost sinners come to our Father’s embrace. We should celebrate and be glad for the lost sister or brother who’s now found and is alive in Christ Jesus.


Asaph was a musician in the court of King David many centuries ago who went through a rough patch seeing the ungodly prospering while he endured so much pain and suffering.

In Psalm 73:2-5 he said;

But as for me my feet had almost slipped; I nearly lost my foothold, for I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man, they are not troubled by human ills.

As we follow him in the chapter we hear him say in essence;

So this is the thanks I get for being good?

Right in the middle of this Psalm, verses 16-17- Asaph entered a worship service and had an encounter with God which helped to clear his thinking and come to grips with the questions which plagued him.

His attitude became—‘I really don’t have a lot of material goods, popularity and health like many of the wicked do, but look at what I do have. I have something better; I have a relationship with the God of all creation and I wouldn’t take anything for it.

Look at what I do have. I have someone who is constantly with me. V 23

Look at what I have. I have someone who promises me a “forever.” You’ll guide me with your council and afterward receive me to glory.V.24

Look at what I have. I have someone who is better than anything. There is nothing on earth that I desire beside you.
V. 25

Look at what I have. I have someone who gives me strength for living. God is the strength of my life. V.26

Look at what I have. I have something to sing about. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of your deeds. V. 28

As Christians you and I can stand in the face of the world today and instead of saying—

“So this is the thanks I get—we can declare;

Look what I have!



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Has The Gospel Failed??

By John Stallings

Surveying America today we see a wicked world, a weak church & unconverted multitudes. The reasons God could chastise our nation are nearly endless.

Many ministries & individuals are putting forth an effort to stem the tide of unrighteousness but a far higher number of lukewarm Christians sit on the sidelines expecting someone else to do the work & make the sacrifices.

We are killing babies by the millions in our abortion clinics. Laws have been passed to protect those who engage in these savage acts of butchery. We sugar-coat this horror with words like “pro-choice” & “a woman’s right to choose.”

We kicked God out of the public school system & replaced Christianity with the false teaching of evolution. Many young people have turned away from God because they’ve been falsely told evolution proves the Bible wrong.

Our schools indoctrinate children to believe homosexuality is a morally acceptable life-style. This is in conflict with God’s Word & is often done against the wishes of the parents. Our society is so inundated by sexual imagery that many of both sexes admit to sexual addictions.

NASA is spending billions of dollars ransacking space trying to find the origins of life in hopes of finding some proof that man can comfortably be his own God, while all the answers to what they seek have been right under their noses for thousands of years in the Bible.

All kinds of “new age” philosophies are sweeping our country. Many states sponsor lotteries in spite of the fact that it’s nothing but gambling, a sin that dooms more people than many other addictions combined.

Approximately half of the nation would rather have a known serial adulterer & rapist in the White House than a person who has a sense of morality as well as a Christian testimony. Partially for this reason premarital sex as well as having a baby out of wedlock have lost the stigma they had just a few decades ago.

Stay at home mothers are mocked by society as being out of touch with the way a modern woman should be living her life. Corporal punishment which is strongly supported by the Bible has come under secular liberal attack & because of this children are disrespectful toward their parents & other authority figures.

Divorce rates are high.

Fathers in large numbers are failing to teach & train their children & dump this responsibility on already over- burden wives, or on the church, or it doesn’t get done at all.

T.V shows are filled with openly gay characters who shamelessly parade their lifestyle before a morally anesthetized nation. Our society is far more interested in sports & other entertainment than they are Godly matters. Every sign the Roman Empire evidenced before it crumbled into the dustbin of history is seen in today’s America.


After all there’s a church on every other corner in America not to mention the fact that Christian television & radio saturate our airwaves. Christian book stores stocked with the finest of spiritual reading are easily assessable to most Americans. If the aforementioned sins go unchecked in our beloved nation there has to be a reason.

Is the gospel we believe to be so powerful only performing a holding action? What is the answer to this conundrum? Perhaps we’ll find the answer by examining some of the parables of Jesus.

Some of Jesus’ richest teachings are found in the parables. He used parables for several reasons; to reveal, to conceal & to bring his teachings from head knowledge to heart knowledge. When Jesus wanted to separate truth-seekers from curiosity-seekers He used parables. Parables are also hyperbole all of us use because sometimes words can’t convey the true feelings of the heart. For instance when we say to someone, “I love you so much I could eat you up,” we’re using hyperbole. When we say “we’re so hungry we could eat a horse” we’re using hyperbole.

Matthew 13 contains several parables so let’s delve into them & see if we can find any answers to the question, “has the gospel failed?”

First is the parable of THE SOWER.

In this parable Jesus tells us that the sower is the witness, the seed is the gospel & the soils are the hearts of men. There are four soils; the hard heart, the shallow heart, the worldly heart & the receptive heart. Again, the sower is the witness or the person who plants the seed, the seed is the gospel or the Word of God & the soil is the heart where the seed falls.

Notice that only one of the four soils is responsive to the gospel. What was Jesus teaching us here? The lesson I see is that if the seed doesn’t take root & spring up, it’s not the seeds fault; it’s the fault of the soil. Some seed falls on soil that receives, protects & nurtures it but most of the seed “fails” because it falls on the wrong soil. This doesn’t change our responsibility to take the gospel to the world but certainly Jesus was giving us a template that the gospel will only be successful when it falls on fertile soil.

When Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago He wasn’t personally “successful” with everyone He came in contact with. The Rich Young Ruler came running to Christ but when he was challenged to give up everything & follow Him, he couldn’t do it. Did Jesus fail where this young man was concerned? Certainly we can’t say Jesus failed. The failure lies at the feet of the young man & his unwillingness to commit to Christ. He was so concerned about finding eternal life that he ran to Jesus but in the final analysis he loved his possessions more, & went away sorrowful.Notice that Jesus didn't go after the young man & try to convince him to change his mind.

In 1967 I was privileged to visit Athens Greece & stand on Mars hill where Paul preached in Acts 17. Embarrassed as I am to say it, I used to have pictures of me standing on the hill striking a “preacher pose.” I’m not sure where those photos went but they vanished somewhere along the way. One thing we didn’t do while in the beautiful city of Athens was to visit the ruins of the church Paul planted there. I visited the ruins of the churches in Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus & Colosse. In almost every city we visited we viewed the ruins of the ancient Christian church.

If I were to ask you to turn to Paul’s letter to the Athenians, you’d quickly remind me there isn’t such a book. Why is there no letter to the church in Athens? Well; Paul didn’t build a church there. He planted a church in just about every place he visited but Athens. Why was there no church in Athens? I’m sure it wasn’t Paul’s fault. I’m sure Paul would have been especially anxious to have a church in this metropolis city teeming with false gods & false teaching. If you read Acts 17 you’ll find the Athenians mocked Paul when he preached the Resurrection of Jesus. They were just not that interested in the gospel Paul preached, it’s just that simple. You & I know the gospel didn’t fail, Athens failed to receive the gospel.

Juda & I were ministering in a church a few years back where the people could best be described as “DOA,” dead on arrival. Good people, but DOA. I would struggle to preach each night & I understood what our good black preachers mean when they say “You’re not helping me preach.”

One day Juda, who was almost as frustrated as I was asked me, “Why don’t you preach that sermon you preached last week in that other church?” I said, “The sermon I preached tonight WAS that sermon.” There it is in a nutshell; the unresponsiveness of the church we were in made the exact message sound differently than when it was preached to open receptive folk.

This parable teaches us to sow gospel seed everywhere possible but not to expect everyone to receive it, because they won’t.


The next parable Jesus tells in Matthew 13 is the parable of the wheat & the tares. Many people look at the church, see hypocrites & say, “I’ m not going back to church because there’re too many hypocrites there.” I have often told people “if there’s a hypocrite between you & God the hypocrite is closer to God than you are.” Jesus made it plain that the devil had sowed the tares.

I think it apparent that we can’t call Christianity a failure because of hypocrites. I’ve also told people who quit God & His church because of the tares, “I’d rather spend a few years of my life in a church with a few hypocrites than to die unsaved & spend all eternity with them.”

I’ve known people who quit watching Christian T.V because of some inconsistency they saw in someone. One man I knew quit watching TBN because he saw a young man in a band with long hair that “looked like a hippy.” That was against his principles so he stopped watching Christian T.V. Of course I didn’t make any points with him when I asked him if he quit watching CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN or FOX when he saw someone on there who wasn’t dressed or coiffed according to his standards. His answer included a few coughs & a lot of throat clearing but as you might expect, “he’d never thought of it that way.”

One thing to remember is that church leadership should have a different standard of dress & overall conduct than those who sit in the pew. If we go to a church & see people shabbily, or perhaps less than modestly dressed (unless it's totally ridiculous)sitting in the pews, that's understandable. What are we going to do, drag them to the door & give them the bum's rush? The Gospel will raise these folk to another level if given the chance. However, it's a different "kettle of fish" to see people on platforms slopping around or presenting themselves in a less than & exemplary manner. The people on the platform or podium after all represent what the church stands for & we need no one to tell us what that looks like.

Why should the church be subjected to criticism when they do what they’re called to do --reach the lost? Isn’t that a strange standard to force on the church, when it should be a place where all can come & hear the gospel? Some people want to clean the fish before they catch them. Jesus told us in this parable not to go around judging & pulling up tares, but to let the wheat & tares grow until the day God separates them. 1 Cor. 3:11-15.

Obviously God gave us these instructions because none of us are qualified to tell wheat from tares. Would you want that job? If you’d have tried to guess which of Jesus’ disciples would betray Him do you think you’d have chosen His treasurer? You & I might have well picked Peter or Thomas as the betrayer. I’m glad I don’t have that job.

So the gospel hasn’t failed because of an unconverted world or because of hypocrites?

What can we learn from the next parable, the parable of LEAVEN?

Physically leaven is an old lump of dough in a high state of fermentation or a substance that causes dough to rise. Leaven is used in the Bible as a type of evil. Yeast would be our modern equivalent of leaven. Leaven, like yeast had a stealthy quality & a small amount of it could greatly affect a large amount of dough. In Exodus 12:8 & Leviticus 2:4 God told the people to make sure the Passover Lamb & other ceremonial meals were eaten without leaven.

In 1 Corinthians 5 when telling the church to deal with immorality within their ranks, Paul tells them to “purge out that leaven.” In Matthew 16:11 Jesus warned about the leaven of the Pharisees, which was their false teachings of Legalism & Liberalism. In Mark 8:15 He warned of the leaven of Herod, which symbolized worldliness.

Leaven works quietly & insidiously just as sin does. Jesus is teaching here that sin in society, even in small amounts has an awesomely devastating effect on the whole of society. The multitudinous multiplying of the leaven of sin in our world doesn’t surprise God. If sin wasn’t as cursedly potent as it is there would have been no reason for Jesus to die on the cross. The proliferation of evil doesn’t mean that God’s work has failed, been thwarted or frustrated, it just means there’s sin in the world & it will be here until Jesus comes back & fumigates the earth.

Next Jesus gives the parable of the DRAGNET.

This one must have been a familiar & vivid picture to the disciples, after all Peter, Andrew, James, & John had been fishermen before Christ called them.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a large net that’s cast into the sea. In those days the fishermen would drag a net along the bottom of a body of water between two boats. The wide net would catch all manner of fish, then they’d bring the net to shore & some were kept & some were thrown back into the sea.

The church today is doing the same thing in our “sea,” which of course is the world. The gospel is preached & there is no partiality to race, sex, wealth, education, intelligence, ethnicity or beauty. The churches mandate isn’t judicial but declarative, in that we don’t do the separating, that’s God’s job.

Having grown up in Florida, I know what it means to fish in the ocean & catch all manner of creatures. We caught blow-fish, all puffed up (I might add some people caught in the gospel net are puffed up with pride.) We caught Eels that would slither & slide away; we caught Dog fish & Cat fish, Grunts & Croakers. You had to be careful handling some of these sea creatures because they could bite, sting or stick you.

The gospel net pulls in all sorts of people, & just as with fishermen, some stay & some leave. Some would be useable & some would not. No fisherman expects to keep everything he catches. Jesus is saying the gospel hasn’t failed because we don’t keep all we bring in. There’s always the question of why some people leave the church. Jesus told His disciples in response to this question, “They went out from us because they were not of us.”

As in the other parables, all this will be settled at the end of the age when God separates the spiritual “sheep from the goats.”

The last parable I’ll speak about is the TREASURE IN THE FIELD. 

As in all the parables, there are many out flashings of truth from this story but the basic truth of this parable is that the man who found the treasure went & sold everything he had to buy the field where the treasure was buried.

I don’t want this blog to turn into an Epistle so suffice to say, this man was willing to sell everything he had to buy this treasure. The treasure Christ alluded to in this parable is the riches of God’s kingdom & of His gospel.

When we look at the treasures in Christ, the truth is, some are willing to sell out to follow Him & some aren’t. Some will pay full price & others deem the price too high. Carnal people trample all over this field & don’t even know it’s there. Jesus also said that when the man found the treasure he covered it up temporarily to go buy the field.

That’s exactly what Jesus was doing by using the parables, He was covering up the treasure from those who weren’t interested enough to seek for it.

The gospel hasn’t failed because some don’t see the value of it or aren’t willing to pay the price to claim it.

Paul said, --But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them. --2 Corinthians 3:3-4



Saturday, February 11, 2017

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.


I know it sounds CRAZY 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. You know how elementary, even maddening I can be when talking on a difficult subject and 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 with one eye and half-sense 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;



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

But 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 love 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.



Listen carefully;

We can always open the doors to let in whomever we want to come in.

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.   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?




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed!

By John Stallings

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Many Americans are praying that with the recent election, we'll see changes for the better.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, February 4, 2017

What Do You Really Care About?

By John Stallings

I’m not asking you if you like chicken wings or quiet walks on the beach.

I’m asking, “What is your passion?” What pulls you out of bed in the morning & keeps you going when there’s very little in the outward circumstance to encourage you? What can make you voluntarily burn the midnight oil? What would you do without getting paid? What would you sacrifice blood sweat & tears for?

I’m talking about hunger, thirst, desire, fire, passion & a drive for meaning & achievement in life.One dictionary defines passion as “Intense, driven, overmastering feeling of conviction, ardent affection, devotion to some activity, deep desire or interest.”

PASSION comes from the Greek word Pascho which means “to suffer,” or “to sacrifice,” & is a requirement if we are to be truly successful at any enterprise. There must be a “fire in the belly” that will catapult us past all the impediments that life throws at us. When you think of successful people in any field, you automatically think of passion.

For years, one of my favorite sports figures has been Tiger Woods. Because of the recent exposure of his shady double life, Tiger can and will be used as a cautionary tale of hidden sin being brought to light as well as reaping what we sow. He certainly deserves it. Where his career will go after his recent fall God only knows but I think you’ll agree that up until the exposure of the scandalous goings on and marital shipwreck, he was a study in passion for the sport of golf.

Tiger’s late father, who was a man passionate about golf, started exposing Tiger to the game at the age of three. Tiger’s dad would take him out to practice every day for two hours. The passion his father had rubbed off on Tiger, & he actually lived to totally transform the game. Tiger even got me interested in the game! I can now sit and watch it for hours on end when before, I couldn’t stand the tedium of it. I’ve tried golf but alas it’s too aggravating for me. I have enough stress just living my normal life, and I don’t need a game to add to it. To me, golf is too slow, but not when Tiger plays. I have read that during a tournament when other players are resting, Tiger will take his coach & go to a private spot to practice. Now, that’s passion. Look at sports stars in any sport & the same thing is true. The truly great ones are always the ones who burn with passion for their sport. I always admired Mohammad Ali because he had passion for boxing. He made me want to watch every fight. There was something about his enthusiasm & passion that captivated me.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan is another man who has a passion for his sport that makes him a “star.” All these athletes are people of passion & when you watch them, you feel as though they would play even if they weren’t so handsomely paid.


Nothing is as boring as watching a bunch of tired aging millionaires who are out of steam, running around on a field trying to fake fire when you can just tell their hearts aren’t in it. What do you think of when you hear the name Bill Gates? You probably think of mega- bucks—but not only that, you think of a man possessed by computer software & how to make it accessible to as many millions as possible. They say in school he was always looking out the windows.What comes to mind when you think of Kenneth Copeland? I think of a man who is passionate about seeing God’s people become who they are in Him, & passionately pursuing a positive lifestyle—one full of prosperity.

When I see Bishop T. D. Jakes, I see a man who is passionately trying to tell people that nothing can keep them down, & no matter what has happened to them in their lives, God has a place and a plan for them. When I hear Billy Graham, I hear a man who is passionate about getting souls into the Kingdom of God & to experience God’s full and free forgiveness. Again, all of these men are marked by their passion for their message. They reach out to us and pull us in & we are warmed by their fire.

John 2:17 says that Jesus was literally “eaten up” with zeal. The word “zeal” is another word for passion. It’s defined as “Eagerness & ardent interest in the pursuit of something.” When Jesus went into the temple to run the money changers out, He was not mad as some have supposed. If you read the narrative; it says that He took time & “weaved a whip of cords” before going into the temple. A man having a temper fit doesn’t take the time to do that. No doubt Jesus was disturbed, but the Scripture says it was “his passion,” more literally; He was eaten up with zeal & passion for His Father’s house.

Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, was one of the all-time great movies—not only financially, but also emotionally. Everyone who saw it was moved because it so accurately depicted the last hours of Christ’s life & His crucifixion. The story of Christ’s passion has changed people throughout the centuries everywhere it’s been told, & one of the main reasons is its passion. All Jesus’ life was moving Him toward the one thing He came to do & that was to die as a substitute for mankind. This He accomplished with such love & passion that the story has literally turned mankind & the world upside down.

One of the things passion is not, for example, is the temporary surge of joy a person gets when he/she has just been hired for a new job that will give him/her more money. Too often after that kind of job has been taken, the good feeling quickly dissipates when the reality of what that job entails sinks in. I couldn’t count the times I’ve heard people say they hated their jobs so much they got physically ill on Sunday night because they had to go back Monday to a job they hated, even though the pay was excellent. Maybe you left the small job you had because it wasn’t showing the flash you felt you needed, but in truth, it involved something you were passionate about. Now you may have a good-paying job, but the passion isn’t there, & you hate every minute of it. I’m not deprecating good pay or any kind of work, or saying we have to be giddy & in love with every task we do. Gainful employment is necessary, & a person must work to exist.

However, the truly happy person is the one who has found his/her life’s work & are so passionate about it that it really doesn’t seem like work.I heard a baker say one time that he loved his work so much that, to him, it was a romance. He proceeded to say that as long as there was romance in that loaf of bread, he would keep baking bread, but when the romance left, he’d quit. I understood what he meant. Fake zeal may get you through for awhile, but sooner or later, if you’re not doing something you love, the fire will die, & you are left empty. Each of us must find our passion & be true to ourselves, for that is the essence of a “Purpose driven Life.”


Paul was struck blind at the moment of his conversion. He also went through shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, false accusations, lies, slanders, abandonment, stoning, & incarceration, but his testimony was that he was “constrained by the love of Christ.” He had a passionate love for the man he met on the road to Damascus. When you read his writings you feel his devotion to his Lord. He had a strong passion to depart and be with Christ, but he also had a deep desire to stay & do the work God had called him to do. Listen to Paul’s passion in II Corinthians 4:17,

For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding & eternal weight of Glory.

Paul also said in 1Cor.8:16,

For I am compelled to preach. Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.

It was the same kind of passion that carried Christ through His sufferings & brought Him through to a glorious resurrection.

I can remember my early days in the ministry when my wife and I lived on very little money, but we were doing what we loved.

Consequently, we never had a sense of being deprived. I look back at some of those times & wonder how we got through it. We had a burning love for the Lord and His work. The fire burned so hot it never entered our minds that we had very little. God always met the need, but sometimes our “want list” wasn’t totally met. The old timers called it “living on love,” & they were right—the love of a newly-married couple who were passionately in love with the Lord & His work.


If we are to get anything done in life we must get victory over the opinions of others. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he was opposed in almost every possible way. Think about it: there we people who didn’t want that wall rebuilt, at least not by Nehemiah. Like it or not, there will always be those who oppose you, especially if you exert any kind of leadership. Victory was Nehemiah’s because he had such passion to complete the job that he refused to quit.

Listen to what he told his critics in Nehemiah 6:3,

And I sent messengers unto them saying I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease whilst I leave it & come down to you?
This is real passion. People even threatened his life & he was forced to take a sword in one hand & a work tool in the other. But nothing stopped Nehemiah.Think of the three Hebrew boys, as well as Daniel himself in the book of Daniel. They were threatened with death because of their refusal to bow down and worship false Gods. It was their passion for God that caused them to take the stand that we still celebrate thousands of years later. They didn’t care what people thought. Even kings couldn’t force them go against what they knew was right.

In Matthew 9:20 we read about the woman with the issue of blood who was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Jarius, the official who could have had her arrested and executed was standing beside Jesus when she reached out and touched Him. This woman had gotten past her fear of man or anything else because she was so passionate about getting to Jesus. Though others were elbowing & falling against Jesus that day, only this woman touched Him with passion, & it caused Jesus to stop. Jesus was moved by her determination & passionate desire to be healed.


James 5:17-18, says...

Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, & he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: & it rained not on the earth by the space of three years & six months. And he prayed again &the heaven gave rain, & the earth brought forth her fruit.”

Think of the passion his prayers must have possessed—white hot prayers that split the heavens and brought results. God honors this kind of zealous prayer.

When I was fourteen years old, I went to my preacher dad & announced to him that I was going to be making a change. I was no longer going to be “church orientated” or as “church minded as I had been.” Can you imagine a boy doing this? Especially with the kind of dad I had—he would sucker-punch you in a heart beat. But I knew it would be okay, because I had a good attitude, not disrespectful or anything. Very matter-of-factually I gave him that information. I went on to say, in a very calm manner, that I would still be going to church. I knew I had no choice there, & to be truthful, Dad was an interesting preacher, & he always had the best speakers to come speak for us. Church wasn’t all that awful to me. It was just that I was going to be “thinking of other things.” I had played my guitar at a school assembly & gotten some really good feedback, &, unbeknown st to my folks, I had a plan to go to New York. My big dream was to be on The Arther Godfrey Talent Scouts program.

Don’t ask me how I thought I was going to do it, I just was—at least I thought I was. My dad looked at me strangely when I told him of the coming change, but since I had assured him there would really be no appreciable change in my behavior, what else could he say but, “Well, alright son?” Big deal; right? In a day or two it was time to deliver this message to my mother. You’d have to have known her to understand. My mom was, in some ways, liberated long before women’s lib. Not in a sense of usurping my dad’s authority; she’d have died before trying that, but in other ways, you had to watch her. She indeed was a strong woman, & her favorite phrase was said humorously; “I cover every inch of ground I stand on.” Believe me, she did.I’m not sure, but I believe she originated the kind of spanking that with every stroke she would say a word to let you know why she was beating you. Some of my whippings were like, “You” slap “aren’t” slap “going” slap “to” slap “talk” slap “to me” slap “like” slap “that!” slap, slap, slap.

Frankly, I also used that kind of spankings when I raised my three daughters. I got it from Mom. When I told my “good news” to my mother, she looked at me with what I can only describe as a look of hurt, coupled with sadness, sprinkled with a twinge of aggravation. She said, “Son, you may do that if you choose as long as you do it respectfully & don’t break any of the protocol we expect of you, but,” and then her eyes welled up slightly as she continued, “your mother will be praying for you.”

I said okay, Mom, & went cheerfully on my way, thinking I had just jumped a major hurdle on my way to full independence. Well, I didn’t know what I’d just started. My mom began to miss our family meals. She would put her delicious cooking on the table, sit for a moment, excuse herself & disappear. I began to notice that she was losing weight. Her double chin went away. She never once nagged me, she really had no reason to, for I was still the good boy she’d raised—no real problems. The only problem, & I didn’t see this until years later, was that she’d heard her boy, the boy God had given her, (who almost killed her in childbirth—she was in the hospital for two months) say, “I’m not going to be as enthusiastic anymore about church.” Five months went by.One night I walked down to the corner near our house to get a Coke at the corner store & was gone for only a few minutes. When I walked back into the house, the door to my parents’ bedroom was ajar, & I saw Mom walking the floor, crying & praying quietly. Dad was in the living room, & I went in and sat down and said, “Dad, what’s wrong with Mom?” As if I didn’t know! We talked a little bit, & Dad said, “Son, what you told your mother about your new attitude is killing her.” I again assured him that I wasn’t planning to rebel in a bad way, & I remember Dad saying, “Son, you know your mother; she’s not going to rest until you get your heart right.” I did a little mumbling & retired to my room.

To make a long story short, the next Wednesday night we all went to prayer meeting. I was, as usual, sitting toward the back, trying to look cool & unaffected. Then, as if hit by an object dropping from above my head, I started to weep. I tried to hide it, but the more I did, the more I shook. Can you imagine what that did to my pride, sitting back there trying to be cool & composed, but, instead, shaking & weeping? I don’t remember who was speaking that evening; all I know is that I was begging God to let him quit so I could get out of there. When the altar call was finally given, I got up to run outside. But when I got up to leave the pew, my feet turned toward the altar. I was “busted.” I surprised myself, & I know I surprised the rest of the church as I, for the first time in months, made a beeline for the altar. We often throw terms around like “hitting the altar,” or “grabbing the altar,” but I did all of them & more. My parents immediately saw what was happening and also made a beeline to that altar, one on each side. It didn’t take long for three small puddles of tears to amalgamate into one large puddle on that altar as I wept& prayed my way back to God.

If you’re familiar with my song, Touching Jesus, the second verse was written about that night. “Well, I was bound when I knelt at that old altar, but they said Jesus could meet my every need, & when this prisoner finally touched Jesus, I was free, praise the Lord, free indeed.”

I fully believe that if my mother hadn’t prayed, & prayed passionately & fervently, no doubt I would have followed those desires of my youthful heart, & within a short time been involved in unhealthy pursuits that would have probably spelled my ruin.

The great pastor & trainer of young preachers, Charles Spurgeon said the following to young men aspiring to the ministry,“Don’t enter the ministry if you can help it. If you can be a Farmer, a Doctor, a Lawyer, a news paper publisher a Senator or King, in the name of heaven, do it. Unless of course the Word of the Lord is “fire shut up in your bones.” If you do not have passion, you shall be unhappy in the ministry.”

Let’s use the analogy of charcoal & fire. Charcoal is a good thing to have, but it must wait for the fire to come to it before it can be of any use. Are you, like a piece of charcoal, waiting for someone else’s fire to heat you, or are you burning with your own fire & passion? I believe that passion, zeal, fervency & enthusiasm make the difference in whether our lives truly count. Without passion we compromise & settle for mediocrity.

Think of the vision of the person you really desire to be. Look at your most treasured aspirations & what you in your heart of hearts are passionate about. What is it that you want to accomplish before you die? Look now at the people with whom you are spending your time, the books you are reading, your dominate thoughts, & the way you spend your time. Are your daily actions in line with the person you truly you want to become? Is everything you are involved with in alignment with that passion? Are you willing to make whatever changes necessary to see those dreams come to fruition? If so, start today bringing these things into sync in your life. Are you boiling & burning with passion about anything? Are people being drawn to you to be inspired & to draw energy from your fire?

• Do you have something in your life that fully captures & engages your mind?
• Do you have something in your life that’s giving you the opportunity to make a contribution to God & others?
• Are you involved in an enterprise that is causing you to aim higher & is giving you a shot at excellence in something?
• Are you laboring in an area where you can constantly improve your skills?
• Do you have a feeling that your passion will enable you to leave your own unique mark on this world?
• Have you thought much about how you want to be remembered?
• If someone woke you in the middle of the night & asked you to tell them your passion, how long would it take you to give them a simple answer?

The most important two questions we all must answer in life are,

1) Who will you serve? &

2) Where will you spend eternity?