Friday, September 30, 2016

Faith Interrupted

By John Stallings


Lord I believe, help me with my doubts. Mark 9:16-The Message


A young boy was riding home in the family car after Sunday school & church. 

The parents asked the boy what he’d heard that morning in Sunday school class. The boy said, “It was cool, Moses crept behind enemy lines & sneaked his people under barbed wire & past the searchlights out into the desert. They got stuck at the Red Sea & it looked like they were gonna get captured by the Egyptians & their tanks. So Moses ordered the engineering corps to build a pontoon bridge across the sea. When the tanks started after them, Moses called in an air strike & jet fighters flew down with smart bombs & killed only the bad guys.”

“Is that really what your teacher told you?” asked the father?
“No,” says the boy. “But you’d never believe what the teacher said.”

Let’s face it. When it comes to faith, many times we can have troubling questions & not as many absolute answers as we’d like. I’ve had folk to ask me if I ever had doubts. Truth be told, I hardly ever have a day to pass without a doubt or question coming into my mind. Frankly I don’t see how anyone can be a Christian & not have doubts from time to time. Faith requires doubt in order to be faith. If you come to a place where all your doubts are gone, you’ll know you’re in heaven.

This is one of the best kept secrets in Christianity; we all have doubts along the way. But doubts can be healthy. They can often be a catalyst to new spiritual growth. Without bogging down here, let me explain that there’s a difference in doubt & unbelief. Unbelief is the opposite of faith while doubt refers to inner uncertainty.

BOY POSSESSED BY DEMON

One day Jesus & His disciples came upon a man who had a sick son. The boy had a demon spirit that would sometimes throw him on the ground foaming at the mouth like an epileptic. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have pity on us & help us.” Jesus answered, “What do you mean if I am able. All things are possible with God.” The man replied, “Yes I believe, but help my unbelief.”

Many people think demonic possession is a myth but I disagree. It seems that there are two extremes; people who don’t believe in demons & people who see two demons behind every coffee pot. I can tell you that the sight of it is disturbing & the sounds that come out of a demon possessed person’s mouth are exceedingly & unhealthily disturbing. I’ve witnessed it. Yes demons are real because Jesus had to deal with them on many occasions. To deny this is to call Jesus a liar.

However as Christians we don’t have to be afraid of the devil, for the greater one lives in us. A demon possessed Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ & Satan can’t & wouldn’t reside in the same person.

Christ’s disciples had tried to heal this boy but failed. Jesus explained to them that they’d forgotten to pray because some things are only accomplished through prayer & fasting.

Recently I was reading a book of sermons written by a man who has had a presence on national radio & T.V for years. I was somewhat surprised to hear him tell of being confronted with a demon-possessed man who came into his church office tipping over steel desks & throwing furniture around like match sticks. He said, “I knew the man was devil possessed because of his strength. However, I also knew the days of miracles were over so I didn’t take any chances, I called 911.”

I’d be interested in having that good brother give me the date when miracles ceased but I already know the date. It was when people ceased to have faith in a miracle working God. When someone tells me they don’t believe in divine healing I usually say, - “well don’t worry about healing. It isn’t for you anyway, it’s for believers. If you don’t believe in healing, you won’t be bothered with it.” Nothing is impossible when we believe God.

You’ve probably heard someone say at some point that God doesn’t ask us to put our brain on the shelf when we follow Him. That’s true in one sense. There’s plenty of proof available to validate the claims of the Bible. I happen to believe that nowhere does the Bible contradict itself or tell us things about people & places that run counter to scientific [or science-so-called-] findings. I believe in the “inerrancy of the Bible,”i.e, I don’t believe there are errors in The Word of God. Not one tiny error. There are many things we may not understand, but zero errors.

Some people say, “The Bible contradicts itself.” I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to chase down some of these contradictions. However I’ve learned unequivocally that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself; it does however contradict us. This doesn’t mean I have full understanding of all things spiritual. On many things I wait patiently to possess full knowledge, knowing it will take another world to reveal it all.

Author John Bunyan in his classic Christian book Pilgrim’s Progress deals with the adversaries Christians have to overcome. There’s a castle called “Doubting castle” & the owner is “Giant Despair.” As we journey down this road called faith there are ditches of doubt. During these times we may feel we’re walking through the valley of darkness Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 50:10; he says according to The Message;

Who out there fears God,
Actually listens to the voice of His servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
Anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God,
Lean on your God.



“AWAITING FURTHER LIGHT”

When I was in Bible College, one of my teachers said something that made a lasting impact on me. He said; if you’re ever troubled by a doubt or some question of faith for which there doesn’t seem to be a satisfying answer, tuck it away in a drawer labeled “Awaiting further light.” He continued,- we might open the drawer now & then & think about this or that but if the answer hasn’t come, close the drawer & keep waiting for further light to come & illuminate the truth. This keeps us from “freezing” in doubt or impugning God’s Word just because we as yet don’t have full revelation.

The teacher added -because he knew he was teaching young aspiring preachers, never, never share with others the areas where we were “awaiting further light.” “Tell them what you know.” If we share from our “awaiting further light” file we’ll get the folk as confused as we are. How right he was.

I’ve heard Billy Graham say that he had a thousand questions for God when he gets to heaven. The Apostle Paul himself admitted that we “see through a glass darkly.” To be honest, after all these years in the ministry, well over fifty, I believe my “awaiting further light” drawer has grown larger but of course the questions & answers I seek aren’t the same.

FIRE ANTS, FRUIT FLIES & ROACHES

Living in Florida comes with the understanding that some other of God’s small critters will co-exist with us. I was raised in Florida & from childhood can remember that if we did nothing in the way of exterminating, we’d have little creepy-crawlers on our tables, in our beds & maybe even crawling up our legs. So you have to fight them if you don’t want to live with insects. These little guys just show up in your house complete with attitudes. They get in by being born inside, wishing themselves inside or by coming through holes not visible to the human eye. They seem to feel they have every right to invade your domicile. So we do what we have to do to get rid of our pests.

Doubts are a lot like flies, ants & roaches. Doubts are “ants in the pants of faith.” They keep us alive & awake struggling to make sense of what God is up to in His great big universe. As already stated, doubts can be a catalyst for growth. I can’t say this for sure but maybe the ants & roaches are here for the same purpose.

Some people feel that even honest doubt is sinful & a symptom of weak faith or spiritual sickness. They seem to think God is in danger of disappearing because of our questions. I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t believe God is so weak that He has to be shielded from questioning. Doubt can be healthy when it’s sincere questioning, searching, probing, wondering why, & not being satisfied with conventional answers. Doubt- if it means an honest searching can be good when it leads to life, truth & knowledge.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. There’s a danger if you & I are-“ever learning & never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” As our faith grows stronger, we should come into full commitment, surrendering & entrusting our life to God.

Our faith can’t be so wishy-washy that we say, “I’m inclined to the opinion that in all probability there exists a being that may not inappropriately be called God.”You’ll remember the three Hebrew boys who were threatened by a wicked king that if they didn’t bow down & worship him, they’d be thrown into a fiery furnace. They explained to the king their faith that God would deliver them. However they added- “but if not” they wouldn’t bow down & worship him. There has to be a “but if not” clause in our faith, meaning -we’d love to have more answers, “but if not,” - if we never get them in this life, we’ll still serve God.

True faith if it’s to mean anything is the determination to walk, live & act in the light of the declared conviction that God is real & has our best interest at heart. Like the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, they didn’t merely voice the opinion that flight with a heavier-than-air machine was possible; they got in the machine & flew. Our expression to God should be; here is my life & my soul & my doubts. Please do what you can with me.

Going back to our story of the little boy possessed of a demon, with a father who had wavering faith; notice that despite the fact that the father admitted he has been wandering & stumbling through the land of doubt, despite the inner despair, despite the struggle, despite the fact that his faith was deeply intermingled with doubt, nevertheless, by grace Jesus granted this man’s request. Evidently the man’s faith mattered more to Jesus than his doubt did because Jesus didn’t even rebuke him for his unbelief.

Friend, this should be an encouragement to us, especially in difficult times. The only thing this father knew for sure was that his little boy was tormented & that Jesus could possibly help him. The words “if you can do anything to help us,” are hardly words of faith & are expressed in the clumsiest of ways but Jesus heard the words “I believe—help my unbelief.” When the man said that- he put the entire matter in the hands of Jesus, right where it belonged & Jesus didn’t let him down. Nor will He ever let us down. Jesus wasn’t looking for a reason not to work a miracle here. Conversely, He was looking for a reason to work a miracle for this boy & his family.

JOHN THE BAPTIST

John was in jail because he’d rebuked Herod for his sin. He must have been confused & frustrated because he sent messengers to Jesus asking; “are you the one who was to come or should we look for someone else?” Not to make excuses for John, but I’ve been to several jails to preach over the years & my heart has always been deeply moved by the hopelessness I felt there. In my opinion there could be no place more corrosive to faith than a prison cell. Nothing could be darker & more soul-destroying than to have your freedom taken away & to languish in a dank, dark prison cell.

Here was John; not knowing when or if he’d ever be released & he began to wonder. Initially, John must have believed that his imprisonment was part of his mission & was in the divine plan of God. But as the months passed, he started wondering about things. He probably wondered –“why am I still in prison? When is Jesus going to start the kingdom? When will I be released? Why isn’t something important happening?”

At least he asked the right question when he asked; “are you the one sent from heaven or is there someone else who will be our savior?” Again we have some encouragement here. Jesus didn’t rebuke John or put him down. He sent back the answer, “the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cured & the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Jesus knew John was nursing his doubts but there was no condemnation. It’s as if He was saying; “John may doubt me for now, but I don’t doubt him. He’s still my man, doubts & all.” What an incredible affirmation & what an incredible Jesus.

THOMAS

How can we talk about “Faith Interrupted” & leave Thomas out? After all, his name has become synonymous with doubt has it not? He wasn’t quick to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. Before we jump on Thomas’ back, let’s not forget something he said. In John 11: 16 when Jesus was contemplating going to the home of the now deceased Lazarus, they remembered that He had almost been stoned to death by the leaders there. Thomas said, speaking of Jesus— “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Of course Jesus & His disciples went to visit Lazarus’ family & Lazarus was raised from the dead. Thomas was right there with them so we know he was no coward.

It takes a lot of courage to talk like Thomas did. If we read between the lines here, it just might be that Thomas, more than any of the disciples knew in his heart what was about to happen to Jesus. But when it came to believing Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas wasn’t going to beat around the bush. He wasn’t one to accept easy answers.

Let me use a personal illustration here. Once in a while I’ll get a call or an email from some well meaning person telling me that a famous singer has recorded one of my songs. Now I’m by nature not really an optimist. Or maybe I should say I’m a “cautious optimist? Juda will say, “Isn’t that wonderful?” She’ll get all excited & almost want to get on the phone & call someone & share the news. That’s one of the things I love about her. She believes. However, I can sometimes be a “fuddy-duddy.” I’ve learned through the years that some of my dear friends don’t know a thing about music. They’ll hear a song that has “Jesus” in it & say, “I think John wrote that song.” What this has done to me over time is make me very cautious. Sometimes the person is right & very often they’re wrong. Well intentioned- but wrong.

Years ago someone called & told us Debby Boone had appeared on the Larry King show & sang one of my songs. I never watch Larry so I had to do an unbelievable amount of research only to find Debby had sung a Gospel song on the show but it wasn’t one of mine. So you can understand, it’s not that I’m a total skeptic, because lots of people have recorded my songs, but I don’t get all excited until I’m absolutely certain it’s true. Even then I don’t get too excited until I first learn if they’re going to pay royalties. [Partially kidding!] One thing for sure I’ve learned the hard way not to accept second-hand information.

Likewise, Thomas wasn’t one to accept easy answers. One incident & the way Thomas responded to it gives us valuable insight into his inner landscape. Jesus had just told the disciples about His father’s house & the many mansions there & that He was going to prepare a place for them so they could be with him. Thomas was listening very intensely to Jesus & in a moment of total honesty he asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going so how can we know the way? The rest of the disciples just listened but Thomas wanted more precise information. We all know people like that-if they don’t understand they won’t let it pass. Thomas was a thoughtful man & an independent thinker -certainly not easily stampeded. He wouldn’t make a confession of faith unless he believed it to be true. He was honest about his doubts, confusion & fears, and he wouldn’t be satisfied with second-hand answers. He’d made it clear that unless he could feel the wounds in Jesus’ side he wasn't going to accept that He was alive.

Thomas wasn’t there on that Sunday evening when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst. We aren’t told why, but I think I know. We said earlier that Thomas probably knew in his heart more than the others that Jesus was going to be killed. If this is true, he had already entered into mourning for His Lord. He was already being hurt. He wasn’t with the disciples because his heart had been crushed. He still loves, he still cares deeply, still wants to believe but his heart is broken. He’s not a bad man nor is his doubt sinful. He isn’t a skeptic; his honest doubts came from his devotion to Christ. It’s one thing to sit in a college classroom & doubt the virgin birth of Christ. It’s something else again to lose someone you love & wonder if there is still a God in heaven.

Thomas isn’t an unbelieving skeptic, he’s a wounded believer. He was not unwilling to believe, but unable. Thomas stands for all time as one man who desperately wanted to believe if only he could be sure. This wasn’t upsetting to Jesus, not at all. We might have a tendency to look down on Thomas but not Jesus. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the disciples a second time. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus relates to Thomas as a man with weak faith, not as a man with an evil heart. He said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand & put it into my side. Jesus knew the raging sea within Thomas’ heart & so He came so that Thomas could be sure. Jesus didn’t chide Thomas & scold him for his little faith. He said-“Go ahead, see for yourself. Stop doubting & believe.”

As far as I can see Thomas never actually touched Jesus. Seeing Him face to face more than convinced him. When Thomas saw Jesus he rises to the highest level of faith in the gospel of John as he cries out, “My Lord & my God.” Honest doubt once resolved can actually become the bedrock of unshakable faith.


IT’S WHAT WE DO WITH OUR DOUBT THAT MATTERS

Doubt can be dangerous but it can also spur enormous spiritual growth. Here are some things that can help us move from doubt to faith;

1. Admit your doubts & ask for help.

That’s what John the Baptist did & also what Thomas did. God isn’t easily offended in the area of our honest doubts. He’s got broad shoulders. Tell God your doubts & ask Him for His help. Don’t fight the battle alone. Talk to a pastor, a deacon, an elder, anyone with strong faith & godly insight.

2. Don’t be afraid to borrow some faith.

Often I do this by reading spiritual materials especially biographies of great Christians. If this doesn’t make sense to you skip this point. But if it does, keep it in mind & when you find yourself slipping into doubt, go find someone with faith & borrow some. Let them build you up. It works. Maybe next time you’ll be building them up.

3. Recognize that faith isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

It’s easy to believe God when everything is going good for you but when things aren’t going so well it becomes harder. This is why we must not allow fickle emotions rule our faith-life. Emotions can change overnight for no apparent reason.

4. Act on your faith, -Not your doubts.

That’s what Noah did when he built the Ark. That’s what Abraham did. It’s also what Moses did, David did, Nehemiah did, Daniel did, & Joshua did. Did these heroes of the faith have doubts? Of course they did. They didn’t know how things were going to turn out but they took a deep breath & took “a leap of faith.”

5. Doubt your doubts, not your faith.

Don’t cast away your faith just because you’re walking through a valley. All of us spend a lot of valley time. Nothing is gained by camping out in the valley of darkness. Look for the light because it will shine on you again.

6. Know that some things will never be understood until you see The Lord.

Many of our weightiest questions revolve around the “whys” of life. Why did this happen? Why this, why now. Why did it have to happen now instead of ten years from now? These questions of the heart will be answered in heaven so it’s faith-building to say, “I understand that I won’t understand right now.”

Here is my final word to you; God never turns away an honest believer. Never. Come to Him with your doubts, your skepticism, your unbelief, your hard questions, & your sincere uncertainties & He welcomes you.

How do I know that? When I was just a teenager, I was struggling to figure out what I could believe. I knew something was wrong with my life but didn’t know what. One night in prayer I cried out, “Jesus, if you’re real come into my life.”

He did, & nothing has ever been the same.

Blessings,


John

Friday, September 23, 2016

There Are Murderers Among Us!

By John Stallings


Tens of millions of murders are attributed to Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin, and Germany's Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler.The United States since Roe versus Wade, not globally,--but the U.S alone has murdered wholesale- 55 million little boys and girls.

We have as a nation, blown by two of the world's most bloodthirsty dictators in our killing of the innocent unborn.

There are murderers among us.

Recently I heard a Christian economist explaining how America got into the financial trouble we’re now in.

Toward the end of his rather lengthy presentation, he said something that I wasn’t expecting to hear. I was shocked. He said, - “ABORTION is at the root of all our problems. America could come out of this current dilemma in a few years but the one thing that would stop us from getting the American dream back would be soon there won’t be enough people alive to have a robust work force. We’ve killed them all.”

This man wasn’t on an “anti-abortion kick,” as a matter of fact he only mentioned abortion in passing. His field of expertise is economics.

He said something else that almost floored me; -“our only hope is the Latin-Americans & other ethnic groups who are still having lots of children.”

I might add Muslims to that list, because they’ve always had large families. For every person who’s retired today & drawing Social Security, there are several working people, forced to pay the bill, though they themselves will never collect Social Security. The government has been up front about the fact that S.S in all likelihood won’t be there for anyone who’s presently under fifty-five. Why? Not enough people in the work force to support it. If you don’t believe in the Biblical principle of sowing & reaping, then you could say the Karma Wagon is about to back up on our face.

Can you see how America has fallen for a big lie from hell- that we needed to stop having children? The motive in most cases has been selfishness and obviously it resulted in a lack of new Americans being born. What follows naturally then is the promotion of abortion as essentially a method of birth control to bring zero population growth into fruition. The thought Satan has in mind is the destruction of America’s future.

AMERICA’S GREATEST SIN IS ABORTION!!

God’s words are simple…I have set before you life & death, blessings & curses…..CHOOSE LIFE!-Duet.30:20

This message isn’t intended to go back into anyone’s past and condemn them. The reason I deal with this issue is because I honestly believe that we need to keep in mind exactly what Abortion is. If you’ve had an abortion, just remember we’ve all made serious mistakes in our past. It would be my prayer that anyone who’s been involved with an Abortion would simply ask God for forgiveness and purpose by His grace never to do it again.

I spoke in a church a while back & made the remark - “An election is coming & I’d like to tell you how to vote!” That got their attention. The good folk grew so pale you’d have thought five double-hump Camels had just walked into the room. I almost considered not making my next statement for fear that some of the weaker saints would have strokes. I was certain I’d wounded if not killed one of their sacred cows by mentioning politics from the pulpit but I forged on; “First of all VOTE! Then I added- “VOTE CHRISTIANITY! No man ever has nor ever will get my vote who believes in abortion.” What happened next really stunned me. The congregation en masse gave those statements a thundering ovation.

I later learned that the church leadership never mentioned pressing issues nor gave the people any inkling of how to vote. To me it’s simple; vote your convictions. Yes, how you vote is between you & God & God is never going to tell you to vote to kill babies.

Who in the world could be offended at us when we say we’re going to vote Christianity to the best of our ability? We can’t always know everything there is to know about a candidate, unless they have a voting record, & sometimes people will change. But as much as is possible, we as Christians should vote our Christian principles.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STATEMENT ABOUT ABORTION

 President Obama, who has complained that "a women shouldn't be punished with a baby," needs to understand that babies aren't a punishment, but are " a heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward."
Ps. 127:3

When speaking of abortion, I’ve heard people say;

“There isn’t enough food to feed multitudes of new people! All those babies will someday starve.” That’s not only a lie, it’s a ridiculous lie!! There’s plenty of food & we can grow more if we need it. Let me qualify that statement. Having a food surplus isn’t really a big deal; that is if the government will get out of the way & let farmers do what they do best.

If we say it’s O.K to snuff out the lives of young Americans because we “can’t afford,” or choose not to feed them, maybe we should remember what we call people who put economics above morality; among other things we call them prostitutes, thieves and drug dealers.

At present one of the most fertile areas of farm land in California has had vital water supplies shut down leaving farmers with little or no work because the Liberals in Washington are afraid of doing harm to a small fish. The last time this happened I believe it was a snail-darter & or a frog or Spotted Owl. May God help us!! Some folk have a good heart but their head is screwed on wrong.

I’ve heard people say—

“We’re running out of room on the planet.” That’s the silliest lie yet. Have you driven around the U.S lately? Have you ever driven through Texas? In some parts of Texas there’s so much space if you get a good pair of glasses you can see next week’s train coming today.

Have you been to Australia, or New Zealand? I haven’t but they tell me these places are sparsely populated. I went to China in 1981 & as I remember there were lots of open spaces there. Have you done any flying lately in the U.S or oversees? In some places the cities are crowded but mostly what you see as you look out the window is open space. Yes there probably are unlivable areas but certainly there’s still plenty of room on this earth.

Al Gore’s movie about Climate Change is another ridiculous lie. I believe we should be good stewards of the beautiful planet God has given us but the Polar Bears are doing fine & will continue to as long as we respect them as God’s creatures. In reality, the biggest source of pollution in many ways is the earth itself. In the middle of our oceans oil can be seen seeping up from the bottom where it’s leaking out. There are places on the planet where you can walk along & see ponds of oil just lying on the top-soil. You can’t walk the countryside without getting oil on your shoes.

Again this doesn’t mean we should squander our natural resources. Common sense tells us fossil fuels will probably run out someday but not someday soon. If & when that happens we can start building engines that can run on water, air, cooking oil, animal dung & a myriad of other substances. You will no doubt remember that the bomb Timothy McVeigh used to flatten the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was made partially of cow dung. Who’d have thunk it?

I’ve heard people say—

 “if we said anything about abortion in our church people would leave.” That’s o.k. There are other places they could go where they won't take a stand on anything.

I’ve heard people say—“churches should stick to preaching the gospel.” Well, the gospel is based on truth & sometimes we must expose the sins that make the gospel necessary.

I’ve heard people ask--- “if we preach this, won’t we offend people?” Maybe; but we need to hear the bad news or we’ll never appreciate the good news.

I’ve heard people say—“If we preach against the sins of our day we just might lose our tax exempt status.” Well then we could do what the vast majority of churches do around the world that never had a tax exemption in the first place.

We’ve slaughtered over 50 million Americans through abortion. How many great musicians, scientists, ministers, architects, economists, inventors etc. were in that great multitude? The sad thing is, we’ve killed our answers & thereby we may just have killed our future.

SHOULD WE BE SINGLE ISSUE VOTERS?

Most of us approach various candidates by saying, -What are his/her qualifications for office? I’m not at all sure that’s the best way to do it. What about asking,--What, if anything disqualifies this person from holding office? Is there any issue he/she stands for that is so wrongheaded that I wouldn’t vote for them no matter what else he does or doesn’t believe?

What if a candidate were to say, -“I’m running on a platform that supports bribery as a matter of public policy?” Would we say that man is disqualified for office no matter what else he might believe? What if a candidate said rape isn’t so bad & we should repeal the rape laws? Would you vote for that man? What if a candidate says he is a racist & says that black people should be denied the right to vote & he believes slavery should be legal in America? Would you vote for that man? Would it matter if he added that he was pro-life? I don’t think so, do you?

What if a woman was to marry a man & the day before the marriage he told her he believes adultery is O.K & while he does love her he intends to cheat on her? Wouldn’t you agree that if a man told his sweetheart that it would be a deal-breaker no matter what other good qualities he brings to the table?

Here’s a question; what do you feel disqualifies a man from holding public office? I believe a man who stands up & says he’ll do everything in his power to promote abortion here in America & in other parts of the world disqualifies himself from any position of public office. It’s the same as the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery, except that abortion, or child-killing is more serious than those.

There are laws against intentionally maiming dogs & cats. Thank God!! And there are laws that protect a wide range of endangered species. But what about the unborn? Jesus said…

….whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.—Matt.18:6

These are solemn words telling us that those who deliberately hurt little children will someday face the Lord.

THE STRONGEST STATEMENT ON GOD’S PRENATAL CARE IN ALL THE BIBLE.

Psalm 139:13-14 says;- For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee for I am fearfully & wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works & that my soul knoweth right well.

How much does God know about the unborn baby growing in the womb? Everything! Like a skillful weaver God takes the tiny hands & legs & joins them together. He forms the heart & then sets it beating. He watches out for the little thumb to make sure it finds the mouth.

Who makes babies? God does!

What else but satanic can we call a law the kills an eight week fetus? An eight-week old fetus has a beating heart, an EKG, brain waves, thumb-sucking, pain sensitivity, finger grasping, & genetic humanity. But under our present laws an unborn baby isn’t a human person with rights under the 14th Amendment which says that “no state shall deprive any person of life without due process of law.” Why then is it that it’s illegal to maim, or mutilate an animal [who would want to?] but the sensitive unborn baby has no rights at all?

Isn’t it strange that there are quotas on porpoises & whales but it’s always open season on unborn babies? If you destroy the egg of a bald eagle you can be fined $5000: if you destroy an unborn baby you’ll make about $350. Do you think that our ghettos or crime ridden streets are the most dangerous places in America? Think again. A baby in its mother’s womb has a one in three chance of making it out alive. Isn’t it a little schizophrenic that today in America a 14 year old girl may not buy cigarettes or alcohol or attend an x-rated movie; in some places she can’t even get her ears pierced without her mother’s permission? But she can have an abortion. Again doesn’t this sound like “an evil plan,” a satanic plot to you?

WHAT IS IT?

If you were sitting at your computer and one of your kids came up behind you and said, “Hey, mom/dad, can I kill this? The first question you’d ask without looking up would be, “what is it?” If it’s a roach or some other ugly bug you’d immediately say, “Yes, please kill that thing immediately. You can’t kill it quickly enough.” If it’s the four year old kid from next door of course your answers going to be entirely different. [I hope]

When the question of either drowning an unborn baby in salt water in the womb or vacuuming it almost out of its mother’s womb and than slitting the throat, our question must be-“What is it you’re killing?” The only truthful answer to that question is, “It’s a living breathing baby stamped with God’s image.

This may surprise you but I actually agree with Marlo Thomas & Barbara Streisand on an important issue. During the last election they said-“One candidate should be elected because of his position on abortion & one defeated for the same reason.” They were right of course but they weren’t thinking exactly as I was. They had the candidates backward.

DONALD TRUMP

I was heartened  when I  read how Donald Trump  had a change of heart and become pro-life. He said in a recent interview...

"One of the reasons I changed — one of the primary reasons — a friend’s wife was pregnant, and he didn't really want the baby. He was crying as he was telling me the story. She ends up having the baby, and the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him. And here’s a baby that wasn't going to be allowed to live.  I heard this, and many other stories, and I am now pro-life.”

Brody asked, “So those stories did change you, they came around and changed you?”

Trump responded, “Yeah, they changed my view, absolutely.”

I WONDER-DO WOMEN KNOW THESE THINGS? DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING IN AN ABORTION?

I’m not wondering if they lack intelligence. I just wonder if they close their eyes to the truth like some do with tobacco, gluttony, drunkenness, or other dangerous substances. They’re not going to expose themselves to in-depth information on the subject.

An encouraging bit of information is that there are actually fewer abortions since the sonogram became available, probably because the future mom can see the little person growing inside her. From the moment of conception a baby has as individual identity. The baby has its own set of genes & chromosomes. At 19 days after conception the eyes begin to develop. At 24 days the heart begins beating. At 30 days the unborn baby is an inch long yet he has a brain, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, & liver. At 35 days his fingers have formed & at 40 days brain waves can be detected & recorded. In the tenth week after conception the baby squints, swallows & hiccups & has fingerprints that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

By the fourth month his ears are functioning, he begins to suck his thumb & he can hear his mother’s voice for the first time. By the seventh month he can see & hear & taste & touch. He recognizes his mother’s voice when he hears it. By the ninth month the baby weights between six & nine pounds & his heart pumps 300 gallons of blood per day. He is now capable of life outside the womb if only he gets the chance.

The last few verses of Romans the first chapter mirror our times, especially the sins we embraced as a people when we turned away from God. The Greek word astorgos translated in the KJV as “without natural affection,” & in some translations with the word “heartless.” It was used in the first century for parents who abandoned their children by exposing them to the elements. Such cruelty isn’t natural. To treat your own children with such callous unconcern reveals that you are without natural affection. Seen in that light abortion isn’t just another sin, it’s the mark of a depraved & godless society.

ABORTION IS WRONG BECAUSE IT’S WRONG TO KILL BABIES

Abortion is as simple yet profound as that, & I know of no other conclusion that’s consistent with the Christian faith. I made up my mind where I stood on the abortion issue a long time ago but I can’t nor would I compel your conscience. You have to make up your own mind.

I have always been & will continue to be a thorn in the devils side on this subject. There are many who are ambivalent about abortion because they don’t want to be “crusaders.” They say things like “I’m against abortion but I don’t want to impose my views on others.”

Let’s use that logic in other areas of moral values. How would you respond to someone who said;

“I’m against slavery but I don’t think we should go overboard & make it illegal?” Or;

“I’m against slavery but I’m not offended if you still own a few slaves. After all I’m not going to be a radical on the subject."-Or;

“I’m against slavery but other issues are much more important.”

If a person said that & then added, “Oh, by the way, I’m pro-life,” would that matter? No it wouldn’t & shouldn’t. Support for slavery is an absolute disqualifying issue for any leader, it doesn’t matter how good his other positions might be. Don’t you agree? I feel the same way about abortion & as I said, I will not nor have I ever voted for anyone who believes it permissible to kill the unborn.

I got an email some time ago from a lady who’d read one of my earlier blogs. [I’ve checked back & don’t really know what she read that convicted her.] This lady was distraught because she’d had an abortion & wondered if God had turned His back on her. I assured her He hadn’t & ministered to her the best I could. If you’ve had an abortion at any time in your life, all you can do is ask God’s forgiveness & determine never to have another one. Try under God to put it behind you & move on. Don’t give yourself a life-sentence because God gets no glory from that. Just like any other sin “He is faithful & just to forgive us.” It’s always Satan who drags up our past. He won’t point out anything new we might need to pray about because that would be helping us. But make no mistake,

ABORTION WAS HATCHED IN THE HALLS OF HELL!

We live fairly close to an abortion clinic & almost every day when we pass we see people outside on the sidewalk with signs engaged in peaceful demonstrations. Once in a while we see a large refrigerated truck backing up to the building; as a matter of fact the truck is so large it usually blocks traffic for some time.

Knowing some things I know, that I won’t drag your mind into, I always get a queasy feeling because in my heart I know the cargo that truck has backed up to load on. This whole business is the work of Satan & those who profit from it. The people who traffic in this awful enterprise will someday face God in judgment.

It isn’t my intention in this message to drill down particularly deeply into the abortion issue; I’ll save that for another time. But IMO it would be worth our time to study the Nazi Germany example in the light of the “Slippery Slope” they found themselves on when a great people were slowly coerced into believing the over six million Jews they butchered were less than fully human.

Especially despicable in my view are politicians who use words such as “Freedom” & “choice” & are doing it for crass political gain. A verse comes to mind that seems appropriate here;

The thief comes to steal kill & destroy: I have come that they might have life & have it to the full. John 10:10.

One more verse; the one we started with,

…..Chose life!

God commands us to choose life. This is a command for individuals, families, churches, cities, states & nations.


Blessings,


John

Sunday, September 18, 2016

God And Crooked Politicians

By John Stallings


People who want power always seem to outnumber the people who’re able to use the power wisely when they get it.

This is probably because power has a way of taking control of a person’s life. It can then be rightly said that the power now has the person rather than the person having the power. This seems to especially be true when the power is inherited but not merited.

We see people like this frequently, especially around the halls of power, like Wall Street & Washington D.C. I discussed abuse of power in a recent blog using King David as the “poster boy” for power run amuck. The man we’ll look at in this piece is a lesser light but his actions are almost beyond belief.

It’s also true that in the case of many, the thirst for power isn’t satisfied when people get power, it only becomes more intense.

ABIMELECH

In Judges 9:22-57 we meet a man to whom the aforementioned words aptly apply. His name is Abimelech, the son of Gideon, the great warrior & judge of Israel. Abimelech’s position placed him in the environment of power & it wasn’t long before power had him.

Abimelech’s story is a vivid illustration of how power wrongly attained & used ruthlessly ends with predictably disastrous result. Gideon’s death provided an opportunity for his son to seize power. This man took over Israel for three years & he was a classic example of someone didn’t have power, power had him. His lust for power caused him to wipe out not only his 70 brothers but whole cities, killing his own people when they wouldn’t submit to him.

Let’s unpack this somewhat obscure Bible story that can give us answers regarding what we can expect from God when powerful/crooked people become driven by blind ambition. The burden of this article is to track the unseen hand of God, bringing about the fulfillment of His plans & purposes. God is sovereign & the story before us is an excellent illustration of how, after we’ve done our duty, we can put things in His hands & leave the battle to Him.

PRECISION

I love precision & not because I’m precise in everything I do. I get great pleasure watching people do their tasks with skill & accuracy. Another way to say it would be- I love excellence. I admire a person who can make a beautiful cabinet, write a computer program or set up a network. My hat is off to mechanics, cooks, carpenters, or even plumbers who do their work wasting little time & material & making it all look so easy.

The ancient book of Judges is almost a forgotten book but the story of Abimelech could be ripped from today’s headlines. In it we see the precision with which God goes about His work. There are many obstacles & difficulties in the story but God works through all different kinds of people, with few of them being godly or wise. He will work in this story with people who strongly oppose Him, but His goal is to preserve His people & fulfill His covenant promises all the while bringing punishment down on the heads of those who’ve played a part in the slaughter of 70 sons of Jerub-Baal [Gideon.]

The action must be carried out in such a way as to destroy the guilty & yet secure the safety of the innocent. God’s skill & efficiency are always consistent with His character & is a wonder to behold.

Gideon had many wives & 70 sons. You’ll remember that Gideon at one time had taken 300 men & defeated the Midianite forces. After this great victory the people had wanted to proclaim Gideon king of Israel but he refused, saying neither he nor one of his sons would be king.

This story takes place in a troubled time in the history of Israel. The great leaders like Moses & Joshua were dead & the kingdom hadn’t as yet been established. We read in the book itself that there was no king in Israel & every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Abimelech was born to Gideon by his concubine but he didn’t inherit the “humble gene” his father had. He wanted to rule as king. Abimelech went to Shechem where he appealed to his relatives for support. He asked them to use their influence with the city leaders to appoint him as king, reasoning that it was better to have one king than 70, especially one well connected in Shechem. Also they would get preferential treatment from him rather than a more legitimate son of Gideon whose loyalties would lie more with the people of Ophrah where they lived.

You’ll remember that the city of Shechem had a great & historical past. It was an important city in central Canaan. When God called Abram to the land of Canaan, Shechem was the first place he came & built an alter to the Lord.

The people of Shechem had a precious spiritual heritage to live up to & a lot to lose by swearing allegiance to Abimelech. They had represented spiritual light & with this decision they deliberately chose to place themselves in shadow.

BLOODSHED

As the plot begins to thicken, it gets much bloodier because if the people decide on Abimelech, the 70 other brothers had to be eliminated. The leaders of Shechem gave Abimelech 70 pieces of silver from their “church treasury.” He then hired some mercenaries who could assist him in rounding up & murdering all his brothers save one—Jotham, who had the presence of mind to hide from the murderers & stay alive. Abimelech wanted no rivals. After the bloodbath, the people of Shechem inaugurated Abimelech as their king.

GOD’S JUDGMENT

When Jotham learned that Abimelech had been appointed as king, he stood on Mount Gerizim [he couldn’t go into town] & called the people of this city to account by telling them a parable & then interpreting its meaning & application. In essence he told them that God would bring judgment on them & Abimelech for the evil they’d committed in the killing of Gideon’s 70 sons.

Next we see how God will work providentially through wicked men to bring about His judgment.

THE MIX OF CROOKED PLAYERS IN THIS STORY ISN’T ALL THAT DIFFERENT THAN WHAT WE SEE IN OUR DAY.

Special interest groups abound in this drama. Abimelech’s mother’s relatives are a special interest group. They have much to gain by the “election” of Abimelech.

Lobbying. Abimelech’s relatives will use every trick at their disposal to bring about what they want to see even though it benefits them at the expense of others.

Money. The money is necessary to achieve the death of Abimelech’s brothers. Abimelech didn’t want his fingerprints on this caper. Isn’t it interesting how little has changed through the centuries? In our day money is a common commodity used in getting what people want & it’s raised from people who believe their contribution will benefit them in the final outcome.

Political hatchet-men. These folk are willing to get their hands dirty & do any low-down deed that will destroy the competition. [Sounding familiar?] The trail may be winding & it may be smokey but if you follow the money these people are rewarded in one way or another for their faithful service. Crooks don’t change much do they?

The people. Then there’s the general population -who are so interested in their own personal benefits from government that they will look the other way when evils are committed by those seeking to gain power over them. We’ve all heard the truism that a society is circling the drain when the people learn they can vote themselves money out of the general treasury.

Again, some things never change!

GOD WILL JUDGE ABIMELECH IN HIS OWN WAY-IN HIS OWN TIME

Now we see how the destruction of Abimelech is orchestrated through a divine sequence of events. After Abimelech had ruled Israel for three years God sent a spirit to stir-up hostility between Abimelech & the leaders of Shechem. A spirit of disloyalty came into the hearts of the leaders of Shechem for Abimelech.

It’s dangerous to oppose God. The Bible declares that vengeance is God’s & He will repay. The verse makes it clear that it’s a fearful thing for flagrant wrong-doers to fall into the hands of God.
God of course does things according to His time-table & not ours but He will take care of business. This act of judgment against Abimelech & Shechem is the fastest one in the whole book of Judges. God’s judgment came quickly here, only taking three years.

As the leaders of Shechem turn on Abimelech after they’d committed murder for him we see the principle; “There’s no honor among crooks.” If a person is low enough to collaborate with you & me to do something dishonest [God forbid,] at some point down the line they won’t think twice in selling us out. This also applies to people who gossip. If you’re sitting in a gossip session with someone & the sharp knives are out, just keep in mind that the person or person’s you’re talking to will give you the same treatment when you no longer amuse them or fill their needs. They’ll give you up in a heartbeat. Why are we so slow to learn that?

Just three years earlier Abimelech had joined forces to exterminate & eliminate his brothers & bring about his rise to power over Shechem. Now these same folk were at each others throats. The leaders who once helped Abimelech become king by slaughtering his brothers, now sought to undermine his authority & be rid of him. It makes you wonder why they didn’t try to have him killed. Surely there was still enough money in the temple treasury to accomplish this.

We should keep in mind that the destruction of Abimelech & the leaders of Shechem is God’s doing. Divine retribution imposed for the treachery in slaughtering 70 sons of Gideon. This didn’t happen by chance.

The leaders of Shechem had an idea. They’d hire bandits to hide in the hills & rob people passing by. Word of this would reach Abimelech & he’d be prompted to retaliate. After all, he was king & it was his job to provide police protection for his citizens as well as those passing through. And by the way, if Abimelech passed by this area, these bandits could kill him & Shechem would be rid of its king.

GOD HAD A BETTER PLAN

Remember Jotham’s earlier prophecy or curse? Not only must Abimelech die, the leaders of Shechem must die as well. God had a better plan. As hoped, word of the bandits & their ambushes reached Abimelech & he hit the ceiling over it. The text doesn’t exactly explain it but we can be sure he wasn’t happy about what was happening in his kingdom. While it wasn’t yet time for God’s judgment to fall on Abimelech & Shechem, these bandits certainly stirred things up. Something was going to happen & soon.

A NEW GUNSLINGER HITS TOWN-HIS NAME IS….GAAL!

Gaal & his brothers come to town. Can we say- “High Noon”? This is really just an old western plot wouldn’t you say? The leaders of Shechem transferred their loyalties to Gaal. They went out into the fields, harvested grapes, drank, got loaded, celebrated & cursed Abimelech. The bar is now open.

Gaal, the son of Ebed cursed Abimelech & said “Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?” I can almost see Gaal in the town bar, after having bent his elbow a few times & gotten a little belligerent saying, “Abimelech, get your army together & come out for battle.”

NOW THE STORY GETS REALLY INTERESTING

Now a little more pepper is sprinkled in the Gumbo. Earlier it was Abimelech who’d reasoned that he was the best candidate for king because he had “roots” in Shechem. But something else comes to light here; in spite of the fact of all the promises Abimelech made, he hadn’t been all that loyal. His headquarters or capitol seems to be in Arumah & not Sheckem. Gaal uses the same argument as Abimelech but he reminds the people of Shechem that their roots go back to Hamor, Shechem’s founding father. It’s clear to me that Abimelech can’t trace his roots back to Hamor. Why should the people submit to a relative newcomer like Abimelech when the “old guard” is standing right in front of them?

ENTER ZEBUL

Gaal has beaten Abimelech at his own game. If one wants to make a claim to the throne based on one’s heritage, Gaal has the most impressive resume’. Every politician has his henchmen & Abimelech has Zebul. Zebul has friends in low places. He was having a few drinks at the Oasis bar when he heard what Gaal is up to. He’s not a happy camper now. Zebul sends word to Abimelech about all Gaal is saying & doing & recommending that he attack Shechem soon, - at morning light. Abimelech decides to take Zebul’s advice & his attack will be swift.

Abimelech surrounds the city & prepares to attack. Gaal hears about the coming invasion & makes his way to the city gate to lead the attack against Abimelech. Abimelech starts to prevail over Gaal & inflicts many casualties on him. Gaal proves to be a coward & turns & runs inside the city gates with Abimelech in hot pursuit.

GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

It seems that Gaal & his men were able to keep Abimelech from gaining entrance to the city so he finally gave up & returned to his headquarters in Arumah. It appeared that Abimelech had given up. But in reality he was getting ready for another run on Shechem. Humiliated by defeat, Gaal “got outta Dodge.” Even though Gaal wasn’t exactly a prize, God seems not to want him to stay around for the judgment that was to fall on the city the next day. Gaal now sees Shechem in his rearview mirror.

When the Sun came up the next day, Gaal & his relatives had saturated Shechem with their absence, having been run off by Zebul. And Abimelech was nowhere to be seen. Everything seemed normal as people went about their lives. Unbeknownst to them divine judgment was going to fall suddenly & unexpectedly. Abimelech’s wrath wasn’t as yet satisfied so his objective was to attack the city, kill all the people & turn the town into a gravel-plain. Which he did!

In one way Abimelech is like his father Gideon in that he seemed to be determined to get revenge on his enemies. He found out that the city leaders had run to the temple, a place representing their God [false god.] These men had gotten into a high tower of the temple making it hard for Abimelech to get to them.

The leaders of Shechem, the ones Jotham had pronounced judgment on -huddled in their temple. So what does Abimelech do? He sets fire to the temple & either the smoke or the fire did its job. Abimelech had destroyed the leaders of Shechem.

There was a small city near Shechem called Thebez & evidently it had resisted Abimelech in some way & his nose was out of joint with its people. Crooked politicians always have an “enemies list.”

Now that Abimelech was nearby, it seemed like a good idea to settle things with this little town. Can we say-“Gunsmoke?” Thebez had a fortified tower in the center of the city. When Abimelech approached, the townspeople crowded into the tower for refuge. Abimelech had just had success in setting fire to the temple in Shechem so he thought it a good idea to do the same here.

One of the women who ran into the tower brought a millstone with her. It made good sense for her to do this because if Abimelech laid siege to the tower, they could take that heavy stone & grind some grain & make flour. With the idea of a siege in mind, the townspeople would put bags of grain & containers of water in the top of the tower so if they were forced into it they could survive until their enemy gave up & went home. This millstone could have weighed over twenty pounds.

In his arrogance Abimelech drew a little too close to the walls of the tower so that he was within reach of a projectile from above. When this woman looked down & saw Abimelech, it was a no-brainer for her to drop the stone, or a piece of it on his head crushing his skull. How ironic was it that this big bad man was mortally wounded by a woman?

It was one thing for a soldier to be mortally wounded on the battle field but it was unacceptable to die after being hit by a stone cast down by a women. To die this way was too humiliating for a military commander like Abimelech so he ordered his armor-bearer to draw his sword & run him through- so his death could be as a result of a manly blow.

The way Abimelech died was appropriate because of the treatment of his brothers. Seeing their leader was dead, the followers of Abimelech gave up the fight & went home leaving the people in the tower unharmed.

So ends a dark chapter in the history of Israel. Once again, God sovereignly directed the course of events so that the wicked were punished, as promised, & the innocent were unharmed.

This story out of Judges & its outcome wasn’t accidental or coincidental but rather it was providentially orchestrated by God keeping his word spoken through Jotham -that the death of Gideon’s sons would be avenged. It’s clear that what Jotham spoke from Mount Gerizim was a prophecy of divine judgment.

Can you see America in this story? America was raised up by God to spread the gospel to the nations. We like Shechem, were & remain the repositories of light. All we need to do to prove that is look at our origins.

Is it possible that like the people of Shechem, we’ve made tragic mistakes hoping for some favor or benefit?

One undeniable truth is evident in this story. We should keep it in mind & anyone who comes against God’s people & His objectives should keep it in mind also.

God will allow His people to be chastened & reap the consequences of their sin, but He will not allow a thug like Abimelech to thwart His redemptive purposes.


I can’t help but think of 2 Peter 2:9;

So you see the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the final Day of Judgment.


Blessings,


John

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Even Think About It!

By John Stallings


When I was growing up, there were five things you just didn’t do.

You didn’t drink
You didn’t smoke,
You didn’t cuss,
You didn’t go to the picture show.
You didn’t go “mixed bathing/swimming.”

Maybe you can relate to that.

I came from a long line where the DON’TS were stressed. I came from a line of sincere Christians who emphatically said—“you don’t drink wine or beer, you don’t smoke, or use mouth- baakie, & you don’t go to the high school prom.”

I attended a college with a very, very strict set of rules. Drinking was out of the question. Movies? Don’t even think about it. TV? You couldn't have one in your dorm room. Holding hands on campus? Don’t let anyone see you do it. Our rule book must have gone on for close to twenty pages. Juniors & seniors could date without chaperons.

RULES CAN’T TOUCH THE HEART

Rules didn’t hurt us; as a matter of fact we respected rules. Rules had a way of making you feel safe because you knew where the boundaries were. But rule keeping has one big weakness; it can’t change the heart. Rules are just insufficient.

Some things are beyond debate, & are necessary to salvation. We all know what they are; the virgin birth, the Deity of Christ, salvation by faith, the efficacy of the blood, water baptism etc. However, disunity & disagreement about non-essentials [things not necessary for salvation] have been a significant problem in every era & among God’s people. Squabbling over non-essentials was a problem in the New Testament church. It was a problem among the disciples of Jesus. The Corinthians were divided. The Galatians were “biting & devouring” one another. [5:15]

If two Christians agree on 79 out of 80 points, they will usually focus on the area where they disagree. Often the smaller the point the more likely they are to argue about it. We can disagree on the craziest things. It’s been happening since the beginning & goes all the way back to the days of the New Testament.

Rome was cosmopolitan with all that implies, & so was the church there. There were Jews & Gentiles in the church who had major differences in what they believed to be proper & improper. As you know, when you have people you have diversity & when you have diversity you have clashes. Some of these Romans had been saved fifty years & others less than a year. Some were liberal & others were legalistic. Evidently some of these folk were very scrupulous about food, drink & days.

The “hot button” issues the Romans were looking at wouldn’t be considered hot buttons today. They had more to do with disagreements over dietary issues.

Look at what we have today

Obviously we have a multitude of church denominations. This is fine, probably even healthy. People within these groups disagree about what kind of music is appropriate in church services. Some folk go to the movies, others don’t. We have differences about dress, such as skirts, ties, swimwear, modesty, jewelry, makeup, hair-length & hair styles, women wearing pants, entertainment, movies, plays, TV, dancing, birth control, medicine-including alternative medicine, beverages, schooling, moms working, dating/courtship, luxuries, eating in church fellowship halls, saleable items in the church, Bible translations, etc.

People get at each others throats over what movie rating is acceptable for a Christian. The larger the church the more likely there will be factions & groups. Some want Sunday School & others prefer small group ministry. They reason; why build buildings when we can meet in homes. After all, Jesus is coming soon. But how soon? Will He come before the Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation or after the Tribulation? Some Christians think there should be no hand -clapping in church. Some like Purpose Driven Rick Warren & some don’t. Some want to start a Saturday night service. Some people think it’s shameful for a church to borrow money. Others borrow money for everything.

And so it goes. Consequently we have arguments, hurt feelings, church splits, & a host of other problems.

PAUL’S POWERFUL PRINCIPLES

Paul addresses these issues in Romans 14, but Instead of laying down a long list of DO’S & DON’TS, he establishes powerful principles. Paul stresses to these Romans that the key elements they’re missing are tolerance, patience & most of all love. In non-essential areas, believers are free to make their own choices, guided by their conscience & The Holy Spirit. This idea makes some people fearful out of concern that it will be used as a license to sin.

Romans 14 is perhaps the greatest chapter in scripture to guide Christians in a Godly lifestyle. It also explores the whole area of how to handle disagreements among believers. How do we get along when we don’t agree on everything? There’s a wide divergence of opinions on many things among believers today & we all need to have a keen listening ear to what the Spirit is saying to each of us.

Paul lays out 4 principles in this great chapter.

1.THE PRINCIPLE OF LIBERTY

Paul twice enunciates this principle very clearly in Roman 14.

I know & am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.-v.14. Everything is indeed clean.-v.20

Do you realize how strange this sounds coming from a man like Paul, raised as an Orthodox Jew? From the moment of his birth Paul had been taught the difference between clean & unclean foods. Leviticus 11 contains a long “Do not eat” list & it included all pork products, camel meat, rabbit meat, birds such as ravens, owls & vultures & most shellfish. The Jews were permitted to eat animals with a split hoof that chewed the cud, such as cows. Fish with fins & scales were permitted as were certain insects such as locusts & grasshoppers.

“Kosher” foods or permitted foods have lasted to this day. Truly observant Jews wouldn’t even think of eating pork or serving it to others. But Romans 14 overturns the entire Levitical law with two phrases;

Everything is indeed clean: - & nothing is unclean in itself.

Nothing could have ever been more revolutionary for the converted Jew than learning that the kosher laws no longer applied. Paul was on the horns of a dilemma; should he teach that folk should just keep the old laws out of habit, or change their diet to demonstrate their new freedom in Christ? What should he say to good people who were wrestling with these questions?

Simply stated, the doctrine of Christian liberty says; - “redemption in Christ sets the believer free from trying to please God through a system of rules & regulations.”

Basically it’s just good old common sense; “you are now free to unbuckle your seat belt & move about the cabin. You’re free to eat anything you want, just don’t eat too much. Your standing with God won’t be affected by the food on your plate.”

The doctrine of Christian liberty says; - “Eat what you want---but you are free to follow the kosher laws too, that’s alright.”

Carrying it a step further, you can also- marry or stay single, take a new job or keep the one you have, live wherever you wish, observe a holiday or not, eat meat or go vegan, & attend the church of your choice.

Be advised, you’re now free, truly, absolutely & honestly free. You’re free from the law, free from rule keeping & free to make responsible choices.

Now Paul doesn’t leave us here with no follow-up because if he did it would sound too much like hedonism-“Do whatever blows your hair back.”

The fact that the 10 Commandments were under the law, & we’re free from the law still doesn’t mean that you & I can trample on any of the Commandments & walk away. We still have no right to hate, steal, lust, covet, lie, commit adultery or disobey God.

WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO DO WRONG!

Christian liberty never means we’re free to sin with impunity because sin always brings its own punishment sooner or later.

With all this in mind, let’s now go back & re-state what Christian liberty really is;

In those areas where the Bible does not give a specific command or principle to follow, believers are free to make their own decisions, guided by God’s wisdom & the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the essentials of the faith, we all must unite, but in the non-essentials we’re totally free to do as we want. In the day-by-day choices of our life in which the Bibles doesn’t speak, we exercise Christian liberty. Next Paul states:

2.THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSCIENCE

Paul states this principle very clearly in two different places in Romans 14.

But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats because the eating is not from faith. For whatever doesn’t proceed from faith is sin.

Sometimes your conscience will tell you “Don’t do that. Don’t touch that. Don’t take that job. Don’t go to that movie. Don’t date that guy or girl.” In those cases the Bible says you should follow your conscience.

Is the conscience always reliable? No, not always because our conscience can become seared or dulled by sin. But when the conscience is informed by the Word of God, guided by the Holy Spirit & submissive to the will of God, we can follow it with confidence. Paul said;

Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. [v.23]. If you & I act against our sanctified conscience we’ve sinned even if the activity in itself is not sinful. We did what we believe to be wrong. That’s what sin is; violating the standard of right behavior.

This is why two people can do the same thing & it be wrong for one & right for the other.

I have a friend who was saved & called to preach out of a Rock-n-Roll background. In one large city where he went to conduct a revival, there was a local T.V show that featured Country & Rock music. Occasionally they invited a visiting Christian singer to be a guest on the program. As you know, a good gospel song is always apropos in a Country format.

For years it was the custom of a pastor friend of mine in that city to have his visiting guests, if they were musical, to appear on this show. This appearance would literally be worth a fortune in free advertisement for the church.

When the pastor told my evangelist friend about the program & that his appearing would help with free advertisement, my friend respectfully declined, explaining to the pastor that being on this show would compromise his convictions. It might also put a temptation in front of him he felt better off avoiding. The pastor explained that every visiting singer who came to town for years had appeared on the show & it was instrumental in boosting attendance in the services. Still the evangelist declined explaining that the others were perfectly right in appearing on this show, but for him, it would constitute a serious violation of his conscience.

Sometimes our Christian liberty or lack of in a certain area will cause us to cross swords with another Christian, & that’s why we need another principle;

3.THE PRINCIPLE OF PEACE

According to Romans 14, when liberty & conscience come into conflict, believers are to follow the path of peace, love & edification.

We believers must exercise special care lest we hurt another with our freedom. Verse 13 speaks of—putting a “stumbling block” or “obstacle” in the path of another person. A stumbling block would be like a book you dropped that might cause someone to stumble & an obstacle would be like pulling a rope across the road to cause someone to fall. Whether by accident or design we may hurt others by thoughtlessly eating or drinking. Listen to verses 15-16;

If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be evil spoken of.

We should never flaunt our liberty at a brother who sees things differently, nor should we entice him to change his standards. If they need to be changed, God can do that.

Paul says further;

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating & drinking but of righteousness & peace & joy in the Holy Ghost. V.17

V.19 sums it up;

Let us pursue what makes for peace & for mutual upbuilding.

Why raise “old Ned” over eating pork or sushi, or putting onions on our cheeseburgers, when our goal should be unity, love & peace. Why become self-appointed inspectors of each others warts & carbuncles?

FIVE BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN WHEN WE MISUSE OUR FREEDOM.

1. Our behavior may be a stumbling block to another Christian.[13]
2. Our brother may be grieved.[15]
3. Our behavior may cause him to fall away from God.[21]
4. We may destroy his spiritual life altogether. [15]
5. God’s work may be destroyed in his life. [20]

Is our freedom worth demanding our own way even though it may negatively impact others? What will we say to God when He says, “Look at all the people you hurt by your careless lifestyle?” Then there’s;

4.THE PRINCIPLE OF SILENCE


God has given us tremendous freedom hasn’t He? We don’t all have to think alike, dress alike, walk alike, or act alike. There is incredible diversity on such matters as whether to get married or stay single, where to work, the friends we choose, what we eat & drink, the books we read, the music we prefer, the clothes we wear, the places we go & the habits we acquire. Our only limits are imposed by the principles of the Bible. But in so doing, how will we get along with all this diversity? Listen to Paul again;

Hold your convictions & hold your tongue
.

You don’t have to broadcast all your habits & preferences for general discussion. Keep them to yourself. If you have a favorite translation of the Bible, don’t try to convince everyone else it’s the superior translation. Keep it to yourself. Do you prefer natural child birth, well & good but keep it to yourself. Do you think a vote for ---------------- would be a sin against God? Do you feel that it doesn’t make sense for a Christian to vote for someone who espouses many non-Christian beliefs? If you think a vote like that can’t be justified, it’s O.K. --It’s O.K as long as you don’t open that suitcase full of nukes at prayer meeting or the next family gathering. Do you think “standing up for what you believe” in an area of non-essentials like that is going to make you look spiritual? Please!!

Keep your convictions between you & God.-v.22

I started preaching as a kid, & believe me I was God’s “gunslinger” in those days. For a few years there I was “Heaven’s hit man.” I sent people to hell right left & center. If I came on a group of kids having too much fun playing marbles, they went to hell. If a lady had on make-up, she was consigned to the hot place below. If you smoked, you not only were going to hell but “you smelled like you’d already been there.”

One day God seriously dealt with me about the fact that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it. God began to deal with me like this; -Is it any worse to smoke than to worry all day every day? By His grace I don’t intend to do either of those things. I could be wrong but I would argue that worry kills as many people as do cigarettes. I’ve never smoked in my life but could smoking be any worse than gluttony? Some folk are digging their grave with cigarettes & others are doing it with a knife & fork. Both are destructive to our bodies which are the temple of God. If we’re going to condemn folk for drinking coffee, & call them “coffee fiends” shouldn’t we watch the other caffeinated drinks we consume? God thought enough of our brain to wrap a skull around it. Surely He won’t hold it against us if we use it occasionally.

TALKING TOO MUCH

On the subject of holding our tongue, let me somewhat broaden the issue for a moment or two about talking. If I can speak authoritatively here it’s only because of the many bloopers I’ve made in my life in the area of talking too much. I guess this will sound redundant when I say- “I talk a lot about talking too much.”

When I think back over my life I can trace many of the problems I’ve had to words I spoke too quickly, an opinion I offered that wasn’t asked for, a time when I was trying to impress someone with my “knowledge,” or a judgment uttered impulsively & in haste. To be totally candid, sometimes when I think about some of the unwise things I’ve said I can get one of those “full body shudders.” Then, like the country song suggests, I say to myself, “I know what I was doing, but what was I thinking?”

Have you ever spoken too quickly or rashly or foolishly & then regretted it. I thought so. It happens to all of us when we talk too much. That’s why James said, - “Be slow to speak.” Don’t run off at the mouth. Have you ever noticed how rare it is to get in trouble by listening?

Proverbs 10:19 says;

Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow. NLT

There’s no peripheral context for this verse, no study that can alter it’s meaning, nothing that can soften the impact. This verse must be understood exactly as it’s stated. Jesus & His apostles followed this verse when they spoke. They spoke briefly, concisely & directly & you & I should do the same.

Listen to Ecclesiastes 10:12---Words from a wise man’s lips are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips…and the fool multiplies words.—NIV

Do you talk too much? Have you noticed that since your friends got “caller I.D,” most of them are almost never home anymore? Have you noticed that your listener’s eyes are beginning to glaze over & their pupils are fixed & dilated, & you have to physically restrain them to prevent their walking away when you talk? Do you find yourself finishing people’s sentences, hurrying them on so you can make a point, interrupting other people frequently & even talking over them? Can you actually see pain on a person’s face while you’re talking? If so, you might need to loosen up a bit & listen to what others are saying.

LOOKING FOR COMMON DENOMINATORS

A couple was getting a divorce & were going through their home picking out things each would like to keep. They did o.k. until they got up in the attic & opened an old trunk. Both of them lunged for an article in the trunk so fast you’d have thought it was a big bar of solid gold. But they weren’t grasping for gold, the object of their attention was a small pink baby booty. Both these parents wanted the booty because it was a memory of the product of their union, their small daughter. They’d finally found something they could agree on.

When you & I stand before God the only thing that will matter is what we did with His Son Jesus Christ. Did we love Him? Did we serve Him? Did we believe on Him as Lord & Savior & did we follow him to the best of our ability.

Nothing else really matters. Jesus is the central issue-always has been, always will be. Like the couple & the baby booty, let’s look for things that will unite us, not divide us.

It would be nice if all of life were scripted for us, if there were no questionable areas, if there were no weak brothers to accommodate. Such isn’t the case. As we go through this life there will be many situations when we will be called on to make decisions about things that aren’t exactly crystal clear.

What we decide in those moments reveals the truth of the condition of our hearts. When we have come to the place where the Lord Jesus & the needs of others come before our own wishes & desires, we have begun the process of maturing in the Lord.


May God help us all to get there. He will!


Blessings,


John

Saturday, September 3, 2016

When Abigail Met David

by John Stallings



“Either you have it or you don’t.”

Ever heard that one? It’s true. It’s difficult to describe the giftedness, the magic or the charisma of the few who seem to be blessed almost no matter what they do. Put it any way you want; “they are on the fast track, their star is rising.” Nothing average folk could do would ever measure up against them.

They are natural born communicators and are looked up to as brilliant by all who meet them. Their timing seems always impeccable. They only have to smile and presto, their charm carries them through any situation. The birds seem to come out of trees and sit on their shoulders. They somehow disarm everyone as they sail through life with none of the problems common to others.

The most careful observation to try to analyze them falls short. They remain a riddle, enveloped in an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, their essence never really isolated and defined. Whatever this quality is, it’s undeniable and anywhere they go people recognize it. They can walk into a room and everyone turns to look not realizing why. Seldom are they the most beautiful or handsome one in the group but still they stand out as if they were. They have great personalities but that still doesn’t give a satisfying answer to what this “It” is they possess.

Even as children, they could do no wrong. They are called “golden boys” or “golden girls” with “special, indefinable qualities.” We know them when we see them but can’t find words to describe why they are different. They were the ones who got all the stars and awards while the teachers never knew it was they who brought the spiders to class. They are consistently in all the “most popular, “most likely to succeed” and “best liked” categories. They live their lives surrounded by admirers and whatever the circumstances, always get a second chance. They have the “Midas touch” and whatever happens they always land on their feet. They are the rare, the few.

IN THE BIBLE, DAVID IS SUCH A PERSON

His life story reads like the story of Cinderella. If it could ever be said that one man had it all it would be David. He was ruddy cheeked and richly endowed with qualities that made people see him as kingly. He had great common sense, was eloquent and had an ability of making and keeping life- long friends. He had a great heart with a gargantuan capacity for love. He was a sweet-singer, poet, lyricist composer and prolific scribe. He was an undefeated athlete, a musician, warrior, pop-hero, crafty politician, magnetic and handsome, father of his country, founder of a dynasty, impulsive sinner, pious saint, had a bright eyed zest for life and he never makes an unforgivable mistake. Seemingly when he is born God has already decided to cherish him while Saul ultimately plunges into madness for his blunders and sins. To put it succinctly, David with all his dents and dings is nonetheless “A man after God’s own heart.”

David was born in Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons. It was his music that first opened the doors for him. He started as an armor bearer for King Saul and was catapulted to fame by a victory over the Philistine giant Goliath.

He finds his way into the royal family by his friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son and ends up marrying Michal, thus becoming Saul’s son-in-law and part of the royal family. David had favor with the prophet Samuel causing the jealousy of Saul to grow more and more towards him. Samuel comes right out and tells Saul that God has chosen another to rule Israel. It seems evident who it is when the women dance in the streets singing, “Saul has killed his thousands while David has killed his ten thousands.”

King Saul’s grip on sanity starts to unravel as he sees David’s massive appeal and finally tries to kill him, putting him on the lam. The following story in 1Samuel 25, takes place while David is a fugitive from Saul.

Amid the rich tapestry of Bible stories, none stands out more than this one. Among this stories many sub- plots, one is the quintessential story of a good woman in a bad marriage. I believe it serves well as a pattern for Christian women living with unregenerate husbands. It’s the story of a woman named Abigail; a gracious, smart woman married to a very wealthy but stingy, sullen, and Ill-bred man named Nabal.

Nabal was from the linage of Caleb and from outward appearances he had much going for him. He was a wealthy landowner, had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats and was married to the beautiful, intelligent, eloquent woman Abigail. There was one very unfortunate thing for Nabal however, his name actually means “foolish, and in this story he lives up to his name big time. He obviously has a bad personality disorder made worse by a tendency to hit the wine bottle, hard. Nabal was what some today would call a Jerk, and believe me that don’t overstate the case. You might call him a loser but perhaps he’s in the “better class of losers” category. The story is intriguing; containing many of the same elements that exist in stories of couples we see today when the matchmaker makes a bad match.

Abigail had no way to know that she was getting ready to be a cast -member in a melodrama that would take her down in history as a tragic heroine but also as role-model for all good women caught in bad marriages.

The passionate and intrigue filled drama unfolds when David and his band of about four to six hundred men were camping not far from Nabal and Abigail’s home. David’s proximity to their ranch made it possible for his men to serve as protection for Nabal’s men and herds from time to time. This detail is important for it answers the question of why David was so quick to ask such a large favor of Nabal.

Abigail had for some time been hearing about this man David. She’d heard about his killing of Goliath and his many other exploits. Of course, most everyone knew about the enmity between David and Saul. Abigail is aware that David and his men are camped not far from where she lived. Most of Israel knew that David during this time was walking a thin line between being on the run and looking like a criminal and just taking the things he needed. Food & provisions for an army like his was a big concern.

One day David sent ten of his men down to Nabal’s house to ask him to share provisions with his men. It was sheep shearing time and David knew Nabal would be preparing plenty of food for the shearers, and there would probably be a surplus available. Maybe they could share it with David and his men.

It wasn’t going to happen. When David’s men came to Nabal and politely stated they came in David’s name making a request for food, Nabal showed his worst side, treating them in a harsh, spiteful manner and refusing to give them anything. He had some bad things to say but suffice to say he let the men know he held David in contempt and wasn’t going to share a morsel with them. The young men departed politely and quickly went on their way to report back to David. When they returned to camp and told David what Nabal said, he flew into a purple rage.

Being the warrior that he was, and faced with the responsibility of feeding his army, David immediately flew off the handle and declared war, gathering his men to march down to Nabal’s compound. David was so livid at the insult that he fully intended to kill every male in Nabal’s household.

It’s important to realize that one act of anger can destroy a life. Proverbs 16:32 says,-- “HE THAT IS SLOW TO ANGER IS BETTER THAN THE MIGHTY AND HE THAT RULETH HIS SPIRIT THAN HE THAT TAKETH A CITY.”

Jails are full of people who like David, in a moment of anger, acted in a rash manner destroying themselves as well as the lives of others. The good thing about anger, if I can call anything about anger good, is that it’s one of the quickest emotions to cool if just given a moment or two. Yet anger takes its terrible toll because people don’t have the patience and self-control to wait and give themselves a chance to calm down.

Ephesians 3:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
Not only was David angry, he was going to compound the problem by taking vengeance which he knew was wrong. Vengeance belongs to God and David knew this but his hot temper was overriding his judgment. God takes a dim view of people seeking vengeance.

In Genesis 4; 14-15, God marked Cain and said anyone who harmed him would pay seven-fold. Even though Cain had committed murder, God wanted no man to punish him. Think of the havoc that would be wreaked if every man took the law into his own hands. In an instant all of society would break down and slide into chaos.

Romans 12:19, says: =Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves but rather give place unto wrath: for it vengeance is mine and I will repay, saith the Lord.”

God will fight our battles if we will only give him time & His sense of timing is impeccable. When Nabal’s wife Abigail hears that David’s men had been insulted and sent away by her mean spirited husband, she immediately knew what must be done. She knows that her husband has acted foolishly and if something isn’t done quickly to quell David’s anger, the blood of all the men in her family and in their employ will very likely be spilled. So Abigail springs into action.

There are some things that shouldn’t be acted on hastily & are better left to simmer and not acted on too hurriedly; but there are other times when all will be lost if someone doesn’t take charge quickly.

Abigail knows she is faced with a time sensitive situation so she must strike while the iron is hot to save the day for her husband and family. It’s amazing how fast she moved, quickly loading several donkeys with two hundred loaves of bread, wine, five dressed sheep ready to cook, fruits, two hundred cakes and other goodies. This woman is a marvel. If it could ever be said that a woman was a multi-tasker, it was Abigail in this story.

She moves with great haste for she must get to David to curb the angry attack she knows is coming. When she finally reaches David on the road, (ver.23) she jumps off the donkey she’s riding & falls down in front of him and gives one of the longest speeches by a woman in the entire Bible. She shows her wisdom, loyalty, humility and determination in the appeal she made to David.


Here we see a good woman trying to protect her husband when everyone who knew him knew he wasn’t worth protecting. Often, in life, a right woman finds herself married to a wrong man. At that point we ponder and ask the age old question; WHAT’S A WOMAN TO DO?

What Abigail did was, in spite of her husband’s faults, stand up for him endeavoring to save him from himself. She would rectify his awful blunder if it was in the realm of possibility. Abigail knew her loyalty to her husband was loyalty to God.

When we make our wedding vows we are making them not only to the other person but also before God. To just cast our vows aside without a second thought because of some real or perceived weakness in a partner, is tantamount to the abortion of a relationship.

In I Peter 3:1-3 Peter talks about how a woman can win an ungodly husband by her Godly lifestyle. Peter tells the woman that without even bringing the Word of God into it, she can witness to her husband by the way she lives her life. I am in no way defending husbands who mistreat their wives here. Nor am I placing all the onus on the wife to make up for all the wrongs a husband might be committing.

What I am saying is that God’s Word teaches that He will honor a wife or a husband in a marriage when they take a stand for righteousness and live in a faithful, Godly manner even in the worst of circumstances. In a nut-shell,--we must endeavor to do the absolute most we can for as long as we can.

Abigail isn’t out to defame her husband, she is protecting him. She sees his terrible faults and admits he has acted foolishly but still she pleads with David to spare him. I have known women who put up with terrible husbands for many years because they loved them and didn’t want to give them up to the devil. Certainly if certain lines are crossed in a marriage a spouse doesn’t have to stay in it but it’s also possible for marital victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat. Abigail realizes Nabal has by his foolishness, brought all this danger on himself but still she’s prepared to do what she can to save him and the rest of her household.

Abigail doesn’t even consider appealing to her husband before she goes; probably because she knows him good enough to know how stubborn he is. Plus, there is no time. She does the next best thing and goes around him doing the only thing she knows to do to stop David from killing him. Can anyone sing---Stand by your man?” Abigail even asks David to put her husband’s guilt and punishment on her head. What a woman. Don’t think for a moment that God doesn’t take note of this sort of thing. Abigail will be honored and her life will soon change for the better because of her loyalty to her husband.

Sometimes this same principle works in a church where Pastoral leadership is lacking and a strong member of the congregation will fill in the gap rather than see important things neglected. This of course is a far cry from usurping authority and taking it away from the rightful leader who’s trying to do his job. The only time God would countenance this would be in a case of dereliction of the leader’s duty, and then if it’s done at all it would be wise to make it a “kid-glove” matter.

This also happens in homes where there is weak male leadership. Oft times rather than see things go down the drain because of weak or non existent male leadership, a strong wife will of necessity assume leadership. A man who doesn’t step up to the plate and lead shouldn’t complain if a woman steps in to save the floundering family ship.

This is exactly what is happening here with Nabal and Abigail.

She doesn’t criticize her husband even though he did a foolish thing. She pleads for his life at the same time reminding David that he’s also getting ready to do a foolish thing, and if he doesn’t stop and think will have blood on his hands.

David is visibly moved by Abigail’s intervention.

Upon hearing Abigail’s plea his head starts to clear and good sense begins to prevail. As it usually happens in these emotional situations, when David had a little time to think he was relieved that Abigail had stopped him. One thing about David was that once he saw his fault he’d fall on his face and ask forgiveness. In contrast, if that had been King Saul, he’d probably have started making excuses for what he’d done to cloud the issue. This is the mark of a small man. But David immediately became sorrowful and repentant. This woman in one quick action stood in the gap between two hot-headed men, saving David from himself. She also gets credit for straightening out her husband’s mess.

When Abigail gets back home, she finds her husband having a drunken party so she puts him to bed drunk and waits until morning to talk with him about what has happened. When Nabal awoke the next morning and was sober enough to talk, Abigail told him what she’d done in going to meet David and how his anger against him had been assuaged. When Nabal heard this he had a strange reaction, at least for so obviously an insensitive person. The Bible says his heart became like a rock.

His reaction to his wife’s actions hit him like a thunderbolt and it devastated him. His male pride had been so damaged and the humiliation so complete that it shook him to his core and he just couldn’t get over it. His utter stupidity had come home to haunt him as he realized that in all his foolish male bravado, he had almost destroyed his family. Were it not for his wife’s good sense and quick wit, he’d be dead. Nabal just could not deal with that fact and for ten days he remained like a walking ghost, unresponsive, and dead while he lived. When a man goes against God he ultimately dies spiritually and in a great sense he is dead while he lives. At this point, Nabal becomes a dead man walking.

Exactly ten days later, God steps in and kills Nabal.

The Bible actually says that God killed the man. (Vrs.38) There’s a sin unto death spiritually but there’s also a physical sin unto to death. In the book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to the Holy Ghost. God reserves the right to end a life when he deems it necessary.

However, there’s no doubt Abigail would have gone on making the best of the bad situation had not God intervened.

When David learned that Nabal had died, he sent men to Abigail and asked for her hand in marriage. He had been so favorable impressed with her intervention for Nabal that he saw the streak of greatness in her. All Abigail could say was, “well, I’m available.”

There’s no doubt that if Abigail hadn’t been a faithful woman and hadn’t moved so heroically to save her husband, her life would have turned out much different. Instead of taking it upon herself to punish her unworthy husband, she acted to protect him and God honored her for that action.

In these kinds of complex issues, if leadership isn’t acting in a responsible manner, we should take the high road, honoring God by being loyal and respectful to them. In so doing we are pleasing God. If we want authority we must know how to be under authority. There are times in life when we may not be able to respect the individual but we should still respect the office they hold.

When you read this story can your see yourself anywhere in it? Nabal was a victim of his own impetuosity and quick tongue. Are there places in your live where you’ve been Nabal-like? Where your words have been hasty and harsh? When you see how David acted in this story can you see some of yourself in his hot temper and quickness to fly off the handle?

What about his good traits, like David’s being approachable and flexible when faced with the truth? Can you see that or perhaps the lack of it in your life?

What about Abigail? Can you identify with her, and feel that at times you’ve had to serve as peacemaker for those around you who had no control over their emotions? Does Abigail’s example of loyalty to her husband inspire you to be more supportive of those you love and be more patient in standing by them?

Multitudes of rewards come for that kind of grace in a life. Sooner or later, if we go on living, we will be handed one of these complicated life situations. We will be called upon to dig deeply into our hearts and souls for a love and commitment we scarcely knew we possessed, and will be tested in ways we never expected.

But look who we’re working for; God is in a position to promote us and give us more than we can imagine, for as He said...


All the earth is mine!

Blessings,


John